Earlier this week, Occupy protests erupted across the country. I'm inspired by the movement. I could smell democracy in the air last fall when young and old were peacefully standing in solidarity against income inequality. It was emblematic of the best of democracy -- ideas expressed in the public square.
When I think of what Chinese dissident Chen Chen Guangcheng had to endure just for criticizing Chinese policies -- house arrest, a flight as a blind man from brutality -- it makes me proud that in this country, we endure even uncomfortable encampments. Or we should -- even when tent cities are inconvenient, even when they invite a wide array of humanity, like a wild and beautiful garden.
I love the protest signs protected by the First Amendment -- some of them humorous, some of them passionate, some factual, some entirely incorrect -- all of them free ideas.
But there's another outgrowth of the occupy movement that isn't healthy at all -- the anarchists and violent outsiders aiming to co-opt and delegitimize the movement. Whoever they are and whatever their motive, engaging in violence is ruining a very special thing.
In some places, the violent images have overtaken the message. In some places, parents don't feel it's safe to take their children to protest.
Now, I get it -- many original occupiers believe the political system has become so corrupt that even participating in it, engaging with it, corrupts the movement. I understand what they are saying. But often, change does come more quickly from the inside rather than the outside. My advice: try both. But don't try violence.
And by the way, not engaging misses a real opportunity for change. Instead, perhaps the original Occupy movement should occupy a wing of the Democratic Party. Become an alternative to the Tea Party, as Josh Harkinson from Mother Jones has suggested. And then, once that happens, occupy the majority in Congress.