Thursday, November 10, 2011

Occupy Burbania II

I have been pretty pleased with the state of our young people lately, so I was disappointed to hear about the riot at Penn State.  I have met too many impressive college students and recent graduates--both liberal and conservative--to make any generalizations right now.  That said I am not happy.  Yes Joe Paterno was fired.  Yes he is a famous football coach.  He is also a famous football coach who failed to report a case of sexual abuse and by his silence contributed to a cover-up that has hurt many more children and families.  I'm sorry (but not really).  He had to go.  I hate to think of the message this riot sends to victims of such abuse.  If I didn't know better I would ask if perhaps there was something else kids could be protesting these days.  Of course there is, and they are.

My college professor friends occasionally tell me about all their students who don't quite understand what is going on in the world around them.  They are interested in their careers or dating or sports.  They don't read their assignments much less the newspaper.  Big ideas are lost on them.  I believe these people are real and exist on every campus in the nation.  Penn State is not unique in this.  Still, that is not the whole story.  The pictures in the New York Times yesterday were of Penn State students calling for Paterno's firing.  I assume they still go there today.  Also, I continue to see these folks marching and speaking in other ways much closer to home.

This past weekend we went in to Boston for a couple hours to take part in a march.  We had a good time and I am glad we went.  That said, our experience was the sort that critics of Occupy--particularly those on the left--would recognize.  We went down for an event publicized on the web, both on Facebook and on Occupy Boston's official page.  Apparently it didn't happen.  We ended up hanging out with a few other folks from the 'burbs who had also seen the notice and eventually there were enough of us for a short tour of the financial district.  I would say that we were roughly 100 in number.  That number includes me, my wife, and our three kids, making us 5% of the 99% on that morning.

On our way to lunch afterward we ran into another group of about 100 protesters who apparently checked the page and started from somewhere else.  There was rumor of another small march somewhere else in town as well.  We never saw them, but it doesn't mean they weren't also there...

I suspect that this will be the norm for while.  It is getting colder.  Life is getting more frantic for those of us with children who also work and live some distance from downtown.  There are problems with winter coming, too.  These smaller marches--at least for now--keep the movement on the minds of many. I think how the Occupy movement adapts will say a great deal about its viability for the future and its ultimate impact on our national discourse.

Part of this adaptation, of course, has been to branch out into surrounding communities.  We had our first "Occupy" meeting on Sunday afternoon.  It was a very suburban affair.  We met in the library.  The regular activists and civic leaders were joined by others interested in the "brand".  There was a reporter from the local paper and a camera from a local TV station.  There was some concern from some folks that there would be an encampment somewhere.  Really it looks like we will be doing more episodic things that give people here a chance to participate without turning their lives upside-down. 

One suggestion I liked was the idea of putting tents and signs on our lawns.  This would keep the movement in the minds of our fellow Burbanians while allowing us the opportunity to utilize our comfy beds.  It is also culturally sound.  We live in separate houses.  Why wouldn't we occupy the 'burbs in a way that is spread out as well?

Either way, the conversation continues.  Last night we had a philosophy group discussion about Henry David Thoreau, Adin Ballou, and their influence on movements like Occupy and the Tea Party.  This worked for us as a way to discuss some the issues we find important.  We will be doing this again (and probably again after that).  Agree or disagree, Occupy has gotten people out here thinking big thoughts.  It is a great feeling. 

Thank you scruffy college students.  Keep up the good work.

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