Bert and the 99%

Poster by Raina Dayne.

(If you’re new to Monkeytraps, Steve is a therapist who specializes in control issues, and Bert is his control-addicted inner monkey.

That’s Bert at left, hiding in plain sight.

Bert speaking.) 

Steve and I were watching tv together when we got into a fight about the 99% movement.

On the screen people were marching and chanting and waving signs. 

“I like this,” Steve said.  “It reminds me of the sixties.”

“I remember,” I said.

“Back when I was too chickenshit to march for or against anything.”

“Well,” I said, “it wasn’t safe.”

“You didn’t think it was safe.”

I said nothing.  What could I say?  I’ve always been the scared one.

“Anyway,” he said, “we’re older now.  And I want to come out of hiding.”


“I want to plug the 99% movement on the blog.  Maybe start with a video of the poem that guy read last week at Berkeley.”

“I see,” I said calmly. 

Then I leaned over and slapped him across the face.  Hard.

“What was that for?” he asked.

“Are you crazy?” I said.  “What if someone sees it?”

“That’s kind of the point.”

“Well, think about it.  Got any Republican clients?”

“I suppose.  I don’t really know.”

“What if they see it and get angry?  What if they quit therapy?  Or stop referring people to you?”

“That won’t happen.”

“Look around you.  Sure it could.  And anyway, aren’t you supposed to remain, whatchamacallit, anonymous?”

“That was part of my training, yes.  I was also trained to be emotionally authentic.”

“Authentic schmauthentic.  You need to make a living.  And I thought you wanted to start selling stuff online.  Ebooks and such.”

“I do.”

“Well, politicize the blog and you risk alientating half the damn population.  How many ebooks will you sell to people who hate your politics?”

“I hadn’t thought of that,” he said.  “But I don’t want to policitize the blog.  I don’t want to politicize anything.”

But he was starting to look worried.

“I just see people standing up for themselves,” he said, “and I like it.  It’s just what I encourage them to do in therapy.  It’s a  good thing.  Hopeful.  Worth celebrating.”   

We were quiet for a moment.  Then he said,

“You get what’s happening here, right?”



Shit, I thought. 

I played dumb.  “Into what?”

“Into compulsive controlling.  Into the way you’ve had me live my life up until now.”

I said nothing. 

“Into being scared and careful instead of honest.  Into anticipating the worst, instead of listening to what we feel.  Into the opposite of faith.”

I said nothing.

Then he said, “I thought you were in recovery.  I thought you were tired of hiding.  I thought you wanted to grow past all that.”

Shit, I thought again.

* * *

So here it is: the text of  Josh Healey’s (long) poem, When hope comes back: A poem for the 99%. 

But we suggest you click on the links (it’s in two parts) and hear him read it to the crowd at Berkeley on November 17, 2011.  The sound’s not great, but the energy is memorable.

(And thanks to Susan for sharing this with us.)


When Hope Comes Back
(A Poem for the 99%)

when Hope comes back
he will be more than a campaign slogan
and a face on a poster faded red, white, and blue
he will not come from a presidential palace
bought and paid for like a Citibank stock option villa
he will put not forget to put on his walking shoes
and join the picket lines in New York
the bread lines in Baltimore
to shake the calloused hands
of everyone walking by

when Hope comes back
he might be named Barack
but he won’t be named Obama

when Hope comes back
he will be a Black Panther baby
who speaks Spanglish
and cooks Korean tacos
and does 180 sun salutations
to the soundtrack of Zion I
– yes, Hope is hella Bay

when Hope comes back
he will be a UFW farmworker
who loves his fields and his flag
more than he hates his foreman
he will be a runaway foster child
who forgives his parents
he will be an Iraq war veteran
who returns to protest in Oakland again
without tear gas canisters to his head

when Hope comes back
he will come back from the future
in a DeLorean like Michael J. Fox
and show us all the things we’d won
like people swimming across the Rio Grande
for fun rather than survival
and the only student debt being to our livers
rather than to our banks
and then Michael J would take us
for a ride back to the past
and show us this is not our first occupation
Flint, sit-down strikers in ‘36
Alcatraz, American Indian Movement in ‘69
Sproul Plaza, Free Speech Movement in ‘64
and every semester since then that was worth a damn
and reminded Berkeley what it means
to be called Berkeley

when Hope comes back
he will be one of my students
East Asia meets East Oakland
brilliantly cross-continental
even though he hates the ocean
speaks with the wisdom of Buddha and Mac Dre
really, he is my teacher
and I think he knows it
and we’re both ok with that

when Hope comes back
he will actually be a she
because hey, that’s who actually gets shit done
she will be a librarian by day, a DJ by night,
an Occupy activist in between
she will be thick hair and thick hips
and if you try to touch either one
you’ll get a thick hand to the face

when Hope comes back
she’ll show us to burn down the banks in our
hearts and love without lust or profit or restraining orders

when Hope comes back
she will be an OPD cop,
then NYPD, then UCPD,
refusing to follow orders
putting down their riot gear
and picking up a picket sign
cuz when the cops join the 99% they actually belong to
that’s when the banks will have nowhere to hide

when Hope comes back
she will be a midwife
in tune with the moon and the womb
an ancient healer who knows every herb in the redwoods
ready to help us birth a new world
one without bombs or borders or Michelle Bachman
a planet of peoples free to honor the earth
and each other like the God
in whose image we’re still trying to evolve into

when Hope comes back
she will be here
right here, right now
on the streets and plazas and parks
of New York and DC
Milwaukee and Austin
Portland and Nashville
London and Manila and Cairo
San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley, CA
with the people and the hashtags
setting up her tent in the morning
paintings banners in the afternoon
attending ridicously long meetings in the evening
shutting down the port of Oakland
and reminding us all that yes,
Hope still lives here in America
she has always lived here with us

and now she is back before our eyes
marching head high, fist higher
and whispering to the millions amongst her,
“Thank you.
Thank you.
You’re bringing me back.
Take my hand,
feel my pulse joined with yours.
Trust my taste on your tongue,
my strength in your lungs,
and let’s see how far we can go


* * *

Want more?


Need answers?

Ask Hugh.

Protest song, by Hugh Laurie.

One response to “Bert and the 99%

  • Susan P.

    You made my day!! Courage is so contagious! Regardless of our politics or lack thereof, or how we feel about the Occupy movement, I think we can all agree that it is a wonderful thing when someone stands up for what he/she believes in, feels passionate about, especially when it comes to trying to make the world a better place. Yes, there is always the fear that people won’t like us because of what we say, who we support, etc. – BUT I am learning that when I don’t express myself something closes inside me. On the other hand, when I do write the letter to the editor, or call my elected officials, or sign a petition or even join a demonstration, I feel truer to myself and freer.

    Great quote from Howard Thurman I just came across that seems timely: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

    Josh’s poem brings tears to my eyes each time I read it. And as though this whole post wasn’t enough to start off my day with a smile, the video of “House” singing the protest song was precious (love that guy!). It is an honor to know you and to keep learning from you, Steve.

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