Friday, November 23, 2012

Occupy Memories

Yesterday morning, we got up bright and early, put on some warmish clothes, and drove into downtown DC.   We found ourselves a parking spot, and wandered down to Freedom Plaza, where hundreds of others were starting to gather.

Just like last year, we were going to participate in a Thanksgiving morning 5K fundraiser for So Others Might Eat.   My wife and the big guy were going to run it, or rather, she was going to run it, and he was going to run as long as he felt able.  The little guy and I would amble along behind, keeping pace with the strollers and the dog walkers and folks like the two soldiers who'd decided this year to do the 5K in their EOD suits.

Let's just say I was glad to discover they were there for pleasure, and not on business.

As we approached Freedom Plaza, we chatted about the cinnamon and sugar bagels that awaited, courtesy of Panera.

And both of my guys asked me the same question:  "Remember last year, when the Occupy folks were here?  Whatever happened with that?"

Last Thanksgiving, there'd been an encampment at the Plaza, right there in visual range of the White House at the heart of the nation's capital.  It wasn't huge, but it was there, and it had...ever so briefly...the attention of a nation.

But now?  Now the square was filled with human beings.  It would, by the start of the race, be teeming with over ten thousand souls, exponentially more than ever camped out as part of that movement.   None of them were Occupy folks.   Why?

There were a range of reasons, which I talked about with my boys.   None of those reasons revolved around a lack of sympathy for what could have been Occupy's goals.  When the local radio DJ who'd been brought in from a sponsoring radio station cracked a joke about Occupy not being there and how much better the square smelled this year, the crowd responded with crickets.  It was awkward, and he knew it, and he didn't go there again.

Occupy failed...and it did fail...first and foremost because it did not speak the language of the people.  The energy was there, the discontent with power and the critical imbalances woven into our culture.  The potential was there.  But if all you can speak is the awkward language of leftism, you're simply not going to connect.

There were other reasons, of course.  The narrowing of the movement into the tedious joyless formality of committee collectivism didn't help.  That devoured the energy of the movement and severed the connection to a generally sympathetic population.  The swirling aimlessness didn't help, either.  This was a community that struggled to respond effectively even to the offer of a free Thanksgiving meal.

And so this year, the 5K was 30% larger, and Occupy was just an echo.