Touring the Occupied Lands

November 11, 2011
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Last week a visit to the Occupy DC movement in McPherson Square revealed an impressive level of awareness and a sense of settling in, as many braced for colder weather.
    Then I was in Providence, RI over the weekend for a conference of the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), on the role of the arts and humanities in a democracy. The hotel was right across the street from the Occupy Providence forces, where tv crews did standup reports as commuters waited for their buses at the edge of the square. Impressive that some young people handling the protest’s media tent could get college credit for their activism. Also impressive how seriously some in colleges and universities are about making education connect with the world in new ways, and with the arts to foster the empathy that many Occupiers yearn for. A good discussion after the screening of Soul of a People.
    Finally, passing back down from New England, I passed the half dozen tents that marked Occupy Poughkeepsie.
    In yesterday’s paper, Thomas Friedman drew the parallels and contrasts between the Occupiers and protesters in India: “Both countries are witnessing grass-roots movements against corruption and excess. The difference is that Indians are protesting what is illegal… And Americans are protesting what is legal – a system of Supreme Court-sanctioned bribery in the form of campaign donations that have enabled the financial-services industry to effectively buy the U.S. Congress… I think that repairing our respective dysfunctional democracies … is for our generation what the independence movement in India and the civil rights movement in America were for our parents’ generation.”

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