As Occupy Protesters' Camps Are Broken, Pause to Consider What They've Accomplished
Wait. The "occupy" part of Occupy may be over, but that's not the story. The story is what the movement has accomplished already.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has evicted Occupy from Zuccotti Park. Our own mayor is making it plain that the Occupy Dallas camp behind City Hall is soon to go. A story in The New York Times reveals that that the Occupy eviction actions around the country are concerted, if less than meticulously coordinated.
The story reports: "Portland's mayor, Sam Adams, said the United States Conference of Mayors had organized two conference calls 'to share information about the occupying encampments around the country.' He said participants on the calls were eager for advice on how cities were handling demonstrations."
But consider this: Before Occupy sprang to life, only academics were talking and writing about income disparity in America. The birth of Occupy seemed to give establishment political leaders, the president among them, the courage -- at least the cover they needed -- to put income disparity on the table as an important political issue.
Now with more eyes focused, it's starting to look as if income disparity may be the single most important thread in the fabric of national politics since the Reagan era. The brave women and men who put up those tents in New York, Dallas and around the country get the credit.
They opened this crucially important window on the inner mechanism of American politics and how that mechanism affects the outward shape of the society. The tents? Eh. That's real estate. Someday scientists searching for the elusive element in our DNA that causes aging will discover that aging is not caused by DNA. It's caused by real estate.
Photo by Chris Howell
The New York Times story today talks a lot about whether Occupy will be able to transform itself into an enduring political institution. It's an interesting question. I sure don't know the answer.
The challenge springs from the movement's very nature as an asymmetrical force. Maybe the one thing Americans could agree on now is that the symmetrical forces of politics, in and out of elective office, have become mired in a cynical field of sludge. Occupy was able to blast some things free precisely because it came from so far outside the symmetry.
So how do you turn something asymmetrical into something symmetrical? I could suggest we take a look at the Viet Cong, but I know that will only stir up the xenophobes and tank the conversation. So I didn't suggest it, OK?
We can look at our own history. America has been an important nation in the development of protest as tool of power. We didn't invent it. King borrowed from Gandhi and so on. But we have a right to argue that our own civil rights movement stirred the planet from Johannesburg to Belfast. Seems like Occupy could get some good pointers from all of that.
But that's tomorrow's discussion. Today's is just this: Occupy, you already went down in history. You are important, cool and courageous. Thank you.
I need to add a P.S. I'm kind of a camping equipment freak. I see some nice stuff out there behind City Hall. Please don't let those tents wind up in a trash bin. Especially if you have cooking equipment of the WhisperLite or JetBoil brands, please let me know if I can help with storage.