Michael Sean Winters in the National Catholic Reporter:
The task for the Occupy Wall Street protesters, and especially their sympathizers, is to channel their protest into productive political change. Instead of camping out in a park, better to get washed up and go to your local congressman’s next town hall meeting. Time to write letters to the editor at your local newspaper. Time to speak with your friends and family over the holidays and insist on talking about politics at the dinner table. Time to make sure everyone you know is registered to vote. Time to speak to your pastor and ask why he is not addressing the issue of poverty from the pulpit, as Archbishop Timothy Dolan encouraged bishops and priests to do earlier this autumn. Ask your priest or your bishop what they think of the new document from the Holy See on the world financial crisis.
In short, it is time to take a “protest” and turn it into politics. Here is where the Tea Party, to which the Occupy Movement is often compared, succeeded in large measure. They did not win every race, to be sure, and Senators Chris Coons of Delaware, Michael Bennet of Colorado, and Harry Reid of Nevada have the fact of Tea Party over-reach to thank for their wins in 2010. But, the Tea Party ran enough GOP House candidates, and won, and scared the rest of the GOP caucus into falling into line, that their political influence in Washington today can scarcely be denied. Can the Occupy Movement achieve such a sea change in the political landscape?
I confess that I could not be more immune to the romanticism of this, or any other, protest movement. I am not a joiner to begin with and a hot shower is one of life’s greatest joys. I do not like grunge no matter how or why it manifests itself. But, politics is, as the Church has continually taught, a noble enterprise. Indeed, this insight that politics is a noble thing may be the most counter-cultural affirmation the Church makes in our day, as the USCCB’s John Carr said at a panel discussion on “Faithful Citizenship” in New York in September. So, as the tent come down and the sleeping bags get packed up, my advice to the Occupy Movement protesters and their sympathizers is this: It is time to organize, not occupy.