Posted 10 years ago on Nov. 15, 2011, 6:49 p.m. EST by SticksCalliope
from Jersey City, NJ
This content is user submitted and not an official statement
I write to you as a wholly sympathetic American. I presume your movement is concerned with the symptoms of widening inequality in America, corporate influence over politics and deregulated financial institutions left to play with hell with huge chunks of the American economy, and vanishing from accountability behind a corporate shield. I say “presume” because there has never been a consistent or articulate statement out of your camp of what it is that you stand for, but in the absence of your own words, others in the media and politics have decided to speak for you thusly.
I am writing to you because I am loyal to your causes, but dismayed by your tactics. When this movement began, I was concerned that it would flounder in the absence of concrete leadership and finite, cogent demands. The only statement to come out of your ranks was a completely scattered, undeveloped catalog of every liberal talking point to be found on the street, that didn’t ultimately well articulate or advance any of them individually. Since that time, you’ve put forward no more cogent or specific demand, and as a result, your presence itself has overshadowed your demands (or lack thereof). The impact of your protests, sadly, has become less to call attention to income inequality or any other worthy concern, and more to make a spectacle of yourselves and your tactics.
Last night New York City police cleared Zuccotti Park, claiming there were health hazards and safety concerns attendant thousands of people creating a 24-hour tent city within a public park. Don’t conflate this reasoning with an attack on your politics, and you’ll see that these concerns are reasonable, and within the city’s rights. It’s going to be winter soon. Thousands of people are sleeping outdoors, in public. A deep frost at any time could result in mass hospitalizations. There is bound to be crime attracted to an area where so many people, possessions and passersby are left mingling all night without guard. It is the city’s right to maintain safe public parks and working environments, and you have been explicitly invited to be there from dawn to dusk to share your political opinion with the world. Listen: if this had been the tea party making tent cities on the lawn of the Capitol, or any non-political group making tent cities wherever they pleased for its own sake, no one would be tempted to see this as a freedom of speech issue. And it’s not. The mere fact that you have an opinion doesn’t license you to create communes on public property incidental to sharing it.
But instead of showing your good faith with authorities, complying with reasonable demands on the part of the city and making the media story about how diligently you advocate your position in the face of setbacks, you’ve chosen to make the national story surrounding your protests about your right to make tent cities. In short, if there is a national dialogue on economics in America opening up, you are becoming its sideshow. And it’s my fear that the more attention you draw to yourselves (rather than your positions) and the more you claim a right to build encampments as a principle of your politics, the more that conversation will suffer.
Do the right thing, the thing you should’ve done back in September. Do the country you’re speaking to a service and elevate the quality of its conversation. Don’t just be noise for the sake of noise, and certainly don’t be as silent as you’ve been for the last month and a half (when a mob refuses to speak for itself, it only invites its opponents to speak for it). Speak in terms of specific proposals, articulate them well, and help guide our national conversation away from tent cities and onto what we can do in our communities and political halls to actually solve the problems we’re facing.