I am Pre-Occupied. Which is simply another way of saying that I am playing catch-up on the Occupy Wall Street phenomenon as it is being played out here on Cape Cod, across our country and throughout the world.
I have read essays and articles thoughtfully provided me by members of this congregation, I have spent time on the Occupy Wall Street website , I have absorbed the various op-ed pieces in the New York Times, Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal, etc. I have paid close attention to allegations that the Occupy movement is being co-opted by the radical anti-Israel/pro-Palestinian left; that it is merely the mirror opposite of the Tea Party movement; that it is a phenomenon that will not last until spring (despite the frequent comparisons with the “Arab Spring”).
I have, in my lifetime, participated in a good many demonstrations: for civil rights and against the Vietnam War in the ‘60s; to free Soviet Jewry in the ‘70s and ‘80s; to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS, on behalf of gay rights and equal marriage in more recent years. I am a believer in the potential for mass advocacy and the power of the many to help shape attitudinal–and ultimately societal–change.
I endorse, emotionally, much of what I hear emerging from the Occupy movement. I resonate to its message about the crippling and corrosive inequities in American society; I have diminished faith in our elected officials to bring about systemic change; I fear for our society in which our national priorities seem so badly skewed and painfully distorted away from those values I cherish as a Jew, chief among them our obligation to care for the least among us. But I am not (yet) prepared to stand with the Occupy crowd because its big-tent, everyone-has-a-voice, all-inclusive nature leaves me wondering what the Occupy movement intends, what means it endorses to effect the societal change it demands. This movement has done an excellent job of identifying the problem; it has not (yet) done a commensurate job with articulating potential solutions.
I do not believe that such change will occur outside the existing structure of government. But I am, simultaneously, pessimistic about the prospects for meaningful changes in the federal government in the near term. How do we get from “here” to “there”, from the painful reality of our growing class disparities to the ideal society we envision and whose fundamentals our prophets spoke of milennia ago? Believe me, if I thought I had the answer to those questions I would be trying to make my voice heard in an Occupy gathering.
So I will continue to monitor this movement; I will continue to read and to listen to passionate friends; I will endeavor to find the kernels of wheat among the chaff of Occupy rhetoric in the hope of finding guidance and inspiration.
I am grateful for the fact that the Occupy movement serves to remind all of us that our nation’s potential for compassionate greatness remains worthy of our attention, our devotion and the risks that are always involved in bringing about meaningful change.