"A word in earnest is as good as a speech"
~Charles Dickens: Bleak House

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Occupy Boston .... I am a Patriot

I would like to start today by noting I have never gone to a protest, I have never been part of a revolution. I do not know the customs, the language or the process of organizing. But this evening I dipped my toe into the pool that is the "Occupy Movement." I was impressed by the number of people that were there. A few hundred I think. I was also very aware that I suddenly felt old. And for a few minutes I thought that I should just go home, hang with the kids and protest from the comfort of my couch. But I decided to stay and I listened.

This lack of knowledge may have led to my feeling of frustration for the first 30 minutes or so .... I didn't understand the language or the gestures. Being who I am I couldn't understand what I saw as a lack of organization. I couldn't understand why people were not listening. Fortunately my impression ended on a better note than it started.

The meeting this evening was to organize and plan what "Occupy Boston" is going to look like .... all details that people do not think about when they watch people chanting and protesting on the news ..... the where & when & how ...... food, shelter, entertainment, etc. But people kept talking about why they were there. Evictions, the execution of Troy Davis, sustainable farming, the evils of the banking system (specifically Bank of America), homelessness, unemployment .... it was like people had been so silent for so long that they wanted to be heard no matter what. It would have gone on for hours I think were it not for the one person who stated simply ..... I think we know why we are all here lets work on how to change it (this is a bad paraphrase but I wasn't taking notes).

And as I sat there watching people struggle to get organized, struggle to be heard, struggle to understand I thought to myself this is what it must have been like to organize the Revolution, this is what it must have been like when the Constitution was written:

I know most of us are aware of these things, but I think sometimes it is good to look back and reflect. The 99% are the new patriots, charting new territory, trying to fix the problems. There will be egos, there will be people who just want to vent, there will be people who are frustrated with the process ... we are going too fast, we are going too slow, we have no message, we have too many messages. But that is ok .... that is how change happens. So while I am sure the founding fathers did not wave their hands in approval of something or use the human microphone to be heard, I am also sure that there were days they thought is this worth it and why am I here. I am grateful that they stuck it out and I am hopeful this movement will as well.

I read a book years ago by Walter Cronkit "A Reporter's Life." He said during the Vietnam protests "How can patriotism be determined anyway? Is patriotism simply agreeing unquestioningly with every action of one's government? Or might we define patriotism as having the courage to speak and act on those principles one thinks are best for the country, whether they are in accordance with the wishes of the government or not? It is everyone's duty to obey the laws of the land, but I think your definition of patriotism, Mr. Secretary, would preclude our listening to and reporting upon the opinions of those who believe your policies are inimical to the best interests of our nation. Perhaps these dissidents are the patriotic ones. At least they have the right to believe that their love of country is as sincere as yours, and that they have the right under our Constitution to speak their beliefs. And it is no breach of patriotism when we report on their half of a historic dialogue."

We broke into groups and that was where the real work started. That was where people really pulled together their expertise and got down to business. I choose to attend the media group (I know you're surprised). It is going to be tough work but it will be worth it. Only history can tell us what this movement will end up as. I am hoping that my children will read in their history books that this movement changed the way we view our fellow Americans, the way our government works and the way our communities thrive. I spoke with a man last night who said he came out because this was something new ..... the idea that the "occupations" are occurring all over the country, the feeling of belonging to something bigger than ourselves. And really that is why I am here ..... because the 99% of the country who does not have a voice should have a chance to be heard and be part of the process.

So, even if you can't come to the protests you can still be a part of the process. Be involved. Silence is the voice of complicity .... don't be silent, be heard!


  1. I really want this to succeed, but my rational mind says we have no chance.

    I'm sure others have voiced my concern that this all falls apart in internal squabbling over "what to do". To my mind, that's always the problem with the Left - because we aren't simple minded, we can't rally around simple ideas.

    The Left is long on ideas and short on compromise.

    We know income inequality is both morally wrong and dangerous to a free society, but what should we DO about it? Some of us might suggest an AMT for the rich, others want a national sales tax that exempts basic needs, others want to limit the size and power of corporations, some are weak socialists, others are very strong socialists..

    How can we find something we can all stand behind that will actually do something useful? Where can we talk about that? CAN we even talk about that without falling apart?

    Where is our simple idea?

  2. I saw a sign last night held by someone who was not really sure this was a good idea. It said "protesting is fun - governing is hard" What you are discussing is the hard part. I would like to see people get back to basics. Support community business, get involved in local politics, get back to being held accountable for your own actions. The whole idea of being a part of a country has diminished, the idea of public service is not a part of the youths vocabulary and we need to get back to that. That is my simple idea and from that idea we can solidify what we want from our government, perhaps some leaders will come out of the movement. Let's not focus on falling apart before we even got started. At this point starting a nation wide conversation about the problems that have been allowed fester for years is a great place to start!