Occupy Wall Street: To What End?

I’ve opined previously in this space that the Occupy Wall Street protesters in NYC and elsewhere should just declare victory and go home. I still believe that is the correct strategy, and they should pack it in before the situation gets ugly with more arrests and violence. As that happens any positive message will get buried by the TV images.

Of course, I many times miss the big picture. And perhaps that’s why I’m sitting here early a.m. as a pajama-clad citizen journalist while pundits like Eugene Robinson use their national media megaphones to share different views.

Here’s from Robinson’s article in WaPo this morning, “Occupy: Out of Zuccotti Park and into the streets“:

Occupy Wall Street may not occupy Zuccotti Park anymore, but it refuses to surrender its place in the national discourse. Up close, you get the sense that the movement may have only just begun.

Demonstrators staged a “day of action” Thursday, following the eviction of their two-month-old encampment this week. The idea was, well, to occupy Wall Street in a literal sense — to shut down the financial district, at least during the morning rush hour.

For the most part, it didn’t work. Entrances to some subway stations were blocked for a while, and traffic was more of a mess than usual. But police turned out in force, erecting barricades that kept protesters from getting anywhere near their main target, the New York Stock Exchange. Captains of commerce may have been hassled and inconvenienced, but they weren’t thwarted.

There was some pushing and shoving, resulting in a few dozen arrests. Coordinated “day of action” protests were held in other cities. They did not change the world.

A big failure? No, quite the opposite.

Lower Manhattan was swarming not just with demonstrators and police but with journalists from around the world — and with tourists who wanted to see what all the fuss was about. A small, nonviolent protest had been amplified into something much bigger and more compelling, not by the strength of its numbers but by the power of its central idea.

There is a central idea, by the way: Our financial system has been warped to serve the interests of a privileged few at the expense of everyone else.

Is this true? I believe the evidence suggests that it is. Others might disagree. The important thing is that because of the activism of the Occupy Wall Street protests — however naive, however all-over-the-map — issues of unfairness and inequality are being discussed.

This is a conversation we haven’t been having for the past 30 years. For politicians — and those who pay lavishly to fund their campaigns — the discussion is destabilizing because it does not respect traditional alignments. For example, white working-class voters are supposed to be riled up against Democrats for policies such as affirmative action and gun control. They’re not supposed to get angry with Republicans for voting to bail out the banks and then flatly ruling out the idea of relief on underwater mortgages.

Ah, good. I’m all for the conversation and I agree that the demonstrations have focused attention on some big issues in this country. But that conversation is about to be lost on the streets. Better to figure out some way now to be heard where it matters: at the ballot box.

And I know we are sliding into the weekend before the Thanksgiving holiday so many will actually be trying to work today instead of wiling away the hours on Facebook, Twitter and so on. So in case you missed this, here’s a good news story.

Mila Kunis is going to keep her date with Sgt. Scott Moore and attend the Marine Corps Ball in Greenville, N.C.  Justin Timberlake kept his promise and attended a similar event a few days ago.

I know these dates were originally organized as publicity stunts when Kunis and Timberlake were promoting their flick “Friends With Benefits.”

But I like the idea that the two of them are recognizing in some small way the heroism and the sacrifices our men and women in the military make on behalf of all of us.

Enjoy the weekend.

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