Occupy Movement Defies Myths

Occupy DC-Dec. 13, 2011
photo by David Schleicher

David Schleicher – Guest Column – January 14, 2012 – Waco-Tribune Herald

As a present for the four-month birthday of the Occupy Movement this Tuesday, let’s put three myths about it to bed, once and for all.

Myth 1 — The movement is dying: In reality, it’s thriving and changing the public debate. A recent Pew Research study found a majority of Americans now consider divisions between rich and poor create more tension than those involving immigration status, race or age.

While there are fewer Occupy tents in parks this winter, protests continue throughout the country and the barriers were just lifted at the movement’s birthplace near Wall Street. Check out http://www.OccupyRadio.fm as an example of the sort of backbone being built to ensure this movement is not a flash in the pan.

Myth 2 — It’s radical: Every movement has its fringes, but the goals common to local Occupy groups around the country are not really so far out. Like Ronald Reagan and Warren Buffett, we believe those with lower incomes should not pay a higher effective tax rate than those at the top. Like many across the political spectrum, we want money to have less sway in politics. And like Gov. Rick Perry, we are tired of “vulture capitalism” — making profit by multiplying debt while destroying jobs. While student-age protesters show up on TV, Occupiers also include middle-aged lawyers like myself who still occasionally vote for a Republican.

Myth 3 — It’s the tea party’s political opposite: True, tea partiers tend to think government corrupted the corporations, while Occupiers tend to think corporations corrupted the government. But the movements share parents: economic adversity and a suspicion that the overall system is somehow rigged against the public. They share a desire for more government transparency. They have even worked together to oppose legislation that would make it easier for the military to detain civilians and for the government to shut down Internet sites.

There’s a reason Time Magazine named the protestor 2011 Person of the Year — and the call for change is not going away. Consider that protesters in Egypt in October marched with signs supporting Occupy Oakland, following a tear-gassing by police in California.

If Occupy can learn from the experience of the tea party, it very well may live long and prosper: Don’t lose too many to friendly fire; don’t endorse candidates; don’t get co-opted by a political party.

And I almost forgot: Do disregard the advice of the political experts.