Occupy this

Why the Tea Party and Occupy movements are not alike.

Those of us dismayed by elected officials and their way of doing business are energized by Occupiers taking to the streets, in New York City, Tampa, St. Pete and around the country. There is something exciting about groups of people who've had enough and decide to make a better world for all of us.

At first, the Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Tampa movements attracted very little media coverage. Activists on Twitter and Facebook had to spread the word themselves.

As the revolution became known, those who want to harness power for the upper class openly disapproved. They complained that the unruly mobs of troublemakers were naïve or crazy, and didn't even have a coherent list of demands. A few praised our newest champions, but mostly the coverage remained dismissive.

Arrests occurred, liberals came to their defense, and only then did the Occupiers become worthy of discussion on cable news shows, in mainstream media coverage, and at social events where I pretend to be a mild-mannered moderate.

I hear some crazy shit. I mingle with friends, coworkers and relatives who sometimes quote pundits on Fox News, and it always makes me smile.

One of the recurring and more ridiculous themes at dinner parties and board meetings is this: "Occupy Tampa, sprung from Occupy Wall Street, gets its original inspiration from the Tea Party. These two groups of activists, both on the left and right are cousins, more alike than different."

I chuckle and then let them have it. Here is my rebuttal:

From behind the wheel of an air-conditioned BMW or Ford F-150 with Bocephus blaring, perhaps one protest looks like any other protest. Both groups are filled with, you know, people. They chant and wave placards. However, if you look closely, the Occupy Movement knows how to spell.

My husband and I have been to both types of events with our kids. I can report with certainty that not all activists are created equal.

Occupy Tampa has a sense of humor. My favorite sign: "I'll believe corporations are people when Florida executes one." The Tea Party doesn't do jokes. And no, Michele "Vaccines cause mental retardation" Bachmann doesn't count.

In Occupy Tampa events, young people help older people cross the street. Organizers talk about being mindful and respectful with passersby and police officers. Compare with Teabaggers who, during Republican debates, cheered for death penalty executions and for the uninsured to die without lifesaving surgery. Which group would you trust with your children?

The Occupiers are advocating ideas that any free thinker can get behind. They want the corrupting influence of money out of politics. They inspire laws making it easier to move accounts from Bank of America where it's difficult to save and get out of debt. When Tea Party activists have the microphone, their coherent demand was for Barack Obama to produce a birth certificate. Recently, they won the battle to get fluoride out of the water in St. Petersburg. Way to go, guys.

Teabaggers are angry and frustrated. They are also painfully, woefully ignorant of American laws and history. They have been manipulated into voting against their own self-interest. The Occupiers are educated and aware of how our political system works. They are determined and resolute rather than angry. They aren't lashing out against the poor, the immigrant, the teacher, the first responders or the working class. Teachers didn't cause our economy to collapse. So the Occupiers are directing their frustration where it belongs — against the financial institutions that caused these problems and lawmakers who made it worse.

This new breed of hero doesn't simply read condensed versions of Ayn Rand and spit out conservative talking points before church. They are a diverse, savvy, and good-natured group talking and listening about problems, wondering out loud about solutions.

Don't compare them to something ignorant just because you don't understand. Shut up and listen to what they have to say. Bring them some lunch, a few bottles of water, or maybe a kind word if that's all you got. You might learn something.

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