Sunday, December 25, 2011

Otherwise Occupied

Responding to a plan by the Occupy movement to demonstrate at the
Rose Parade on Jan. 2, the local Tea Party folks decided to join in
the fun, setting up a riveting contest to determine which fringe
group could be the most obnoxious.

It looks, however, that we’ll be spared this ideological pillow fight
on Colorado Boulevard. The Tea Party has opted out.

Maybe they realized that when the other guy looks stupid, there’s
nothing to be gained in looking stupid as well.

Look, I’m in sympathy with some of the aims of the Occupy crowd.
For whatever else they have done, they have made income inequality,
the widening gap between the haves and have-nots and the corrupting
influence of money on politics a part of the national dialogue.

They have made it clear that this nation’s inability to create jobs,
to prevent the wholesale evictions of economic victims from their
homes, to protect citizens from predatory corporate practices is

And they are willing to risk a face full of pepper spray and arrest
to protest it.

Unfortunately, they have failed to move their arguments beyond the
street. And many of their good intentions have been hijacked by
anarchists, aged hippies, druggies, off-the-beaten-path religious
zealots and other assorted chest beaters. The result is a message so
muddled that it has become unclear.

They are at risk of becoming irrelevant. The absolute wrong way to
regroup, however, is to attempt to politicize a hundred thousand
people who show up once a year to smell the roses, listen to the
bands, root for their football teams and enjoy a slice of Americana.

It would be like teaching the catechism to the Taliban.

The plan as of now is to have the Occupy protestors march behind the
rest of the parade as it winds its way through Pasadena. That will
put them smack dab behind a phalanx of police and a line of
mechanized street sweepers whose job it is to clear the streets of

The Occupy forces, if history repeats itself, will be joined by a
gaggle of Jesus freaks, Hare Krishnas, animal rights activists,
anti-war protestors and other rebels with a cause who have
traditionally followed the parade, much to the interest of
practically no one.

Oh, sure, the Occupy people will be waving signs along the parade
route. But their main thrust is to carry a “Octupy Octopus,” a puppet
crafted from recycled plastic bags and bamboo that takes 40 people to
operate. According to organizers, it represents Wall Street’s
stranglehold on American politics.

I saw a picture of it on their web site. It looks like a third-grade
art project.

Is this any way to win hearts and minds? It isn’t.

I suspect they are hoping for some TV exposure but I doubt they will
get much unless some militant faction decides to storm the parade
route. And that’s not the kind of exposure this movement needs.

The Occupy movement must define who they are, join with labor unions
and other sympathizers throughout the country to raise money and
support candidates that believe in their values.

It’s called working within the system and it often works. The Tea
Party did it. So can they.

But that can’t do it from a tent on some street corner. And they
can’t do it by embracing disruption as a political tool.

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