I marched with Occupy Tacoma and found a diverse group of caring citizens. But I fear that the Occupy movement polarizes many Americans.
If it is unacceptable to stereotype the poor, the immigrant and the union laborer, why is it acceptable to stereotype police officers, bankers, the wealthy and business owners? That cop standing there is also the 99 percent. So is that local bank manager and that state congresswoman.
Perhaps we need to dialogue instead of demand. I suggest that the Occupy movement form listening circles. Invite the “other” into your circle instead of demonizing him.
Some Occupiers seem pretty exclusive. The truth is, sidewalk campers who depend on other people’s plumbing and other people’s food are an infinitesimal fraction of America, not 99 percent.
Here are some guidelines for listening circles.
• No judgments, just “I” statements instead of “you” statements.
• Talk about three subjects: how I feel, what I fear and what I hope.
• Listen to others.
• No hiding behind masks and black bandannas: Anarchy is the opposite of community.
• If everyone in my circle is just like me, I’m in the wrong circle.
I hope the Occupy movement will generate positive vision instead of adolescent outrage. I hope it will create legislative goals instead of angry demands. I hope it will generate candidates instead of campers. Before I occupy Tacoma, I must occupy my heart. That means inviting the “other” in.