Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Strike Day 74

Another beautiful blue-sky day in Southern California without a cloud in sight -- at least in the sky.

I did the 12:00 to 3:00pm shift on the picket line and to be honest for about an hour -- probably around 1:00 to 2:00 -- our WGA ranks were a little thin. It was just me and my "Strike Buddy." Then we were joined by a writer who was on her way to picket at NBC, noticed us as she was driving by and decided to park and join us, which was great. Then a couple of Writers Assistants showed up and we had suddenly more than doubled our numbers. The five of us kept picketing until the Guild van came by to pack up our signs and shut down the WGA presence at the Avon Gate around Three.

At one point while it was just the two of us, my strike buddy was off to the side getting a drink from the portable water cooler, leaving me picketing all by my lonesome, when a few Warners employees walked by and started giving me grief for being all alone. Basically they started heckling me. I heckled them back, as graciously as possible.

Another studio employee who was headed out crossed through the verbal exchange and added his own somewhat disparaging commentary, to which I replied with something like: "Well I'm just happy we live in a country where you and I can disagree about such things and still be able to live relatively happy lives," to which he replied: "You must be a fiction writer."

To which I then responded: "You mean because I said 'we can both live relatively happy lives'? Well, it's just my opinion but if you compare the average life here in the USA at the dawn of the 21st Century to the average life of anyone in the recorded history of mankind, I would stand by my claim that we count as 'relatively happy.'"

When my strike buddy came back to the line a minute later we both realized it had been a funny interlude but one which provided a serious lesson. The truth is, when you are marching back and forth with a picket sign in your hand ALL ALONE, you are an easy target. An easy target for derogatory humor on the one hand and an easy target to be made profoundly insignificant on the other. There is a big difference between one lone picketer and two picketers together -- and there is almost just as big a difference between two picketers and three. When you are alone, in any context on earth, you are an easy target for anyone who has half a notion to mess with you. When you are shoulder-to-shoulder with two other people, my guesstimate is that two-thirds of those who would have had the notion to mess with you -- even just verbally -- if you were all alone will not have that notion even cross their mind.

It takes much more motivation to mess with 3 people than to mess with one.

Now please don't get me wrong -- I'm not against intense, wide open debate, be it in the halls of the WGA or out on the picket line or pretty much anywhere else. In fact I have engaged in such debate many, many times throughout my life, everywhere from the streets of Brooklyn, New York to the streets of Shanghai, China -- but what I'm talking about wasn't "debate," it was heckling, plain and simple. And judging by my personal experience over the past two-and-a-half months, when there's more than one of us out there walking the line we simply don't get heckled.

So show up and walk the picket line, if for no other reason than to prevent your fellow guild members from being heckled!

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