To occupy or not to occupy...

By Siobhan Connally

soapbox badgeIn 1992 the pro-choice movement was nearly 20 years into its official existence and I was a year out of college.

I had, of course, formed an opinion: I was young, unmarried and sexually active.

However, I wasn't politically active.

When I attended my first rally in front of the Lark Street Planned Parenthood I was there as an observer. Sure, I was partial, but I was also curious.

Sign carrying young women, like my then self, paced the sidewalk in an orderly oval. Standing well across the street, women and men my current age and older stood stock still with their crucifixes and doll-baby effigies. Some brought their own children, a presence I assumed was a political statement in and of itself.

As I gawked behind my camera's viewfinder, I came to the surprising conclusion that this was no place for me.

The children huddled by their mothers, sandwiched between the chaos of pastorly-looking men waving pictures of mangled infants and smartly dressed co-eds shouting back: "Keep Your Laws Off My Body," made me think it was no place for them, either.

Thinking back to those days from the vantage of parenthood, though, I can't imagine bringing my kids into the fray. It's not because I think political activism shouldn't be pushed on children, however, it's simply because I'd worry I'd lose one of them in the crowd. I'm just not good at multi-tasking. I can either be a voice for change ... or I can offer near-constant reminders not to run into traffic (I can't do both).

But I wasn't a parent then, so I didn't spend too much time thinking about the presence of the children. At that moment, they seemed merely furnishings in a house of cards.

The shocking aspect to me had to do with the people with whom I'd chosen to identify. I was appalled at the sentiment they were aggressively promoting: "I f*&# to come not to conceive;" the most memorable of the slogans.

As I walked around listening and taking pictures, it seemed no one had it quite right. There were hundreds of women just like me, and so many of them were saying things that seemed off the mark.

Siobhan Connally 1992 protest.jpg

My opinion after that day, though fundamentally unchanged, became increasingly more nuanced.

I came to understand that it wasn't the individual message that mattered. What was important was just my support for the showing of support.

Now, nearly 20 years later I see some of the same things happening with an ideologically different movement - the protest against the excesses of Wall Street.

Again, I've chosen sides but stayed off the streets. My first-hand observations have only come from driving slow past Academy Park, the rest comes from surfing the Interwebs.

I see the tents and the people sitting around camp tables playing cards. From the drive-by seem jovial and sedate.

Flickr helps me comb through the images of occupations I will never see in person.

Here and there I pour over the signs, peek into the tents and listen to the conversations from the isolation of my living room. Within the confines of many single frames, I find much with which to disagree.

Yet, what most folks have taken to task is the lack of a solidified governing body and issue clarity. They think this ad hoc general assembly of bodies is as effective at showing the way as fog in a downpour.

Evidently we expect fed-up citizens to counter with concrete plans the political vagaries of the folks we elect to represent us.

I don't know where the movement will go. I have no idea if it will affect change, or even be around over the course of the next 20 years.

And even though I probably won't be carrying a sign in the crowd, I will be watching, voting and occupying in spirit. Because I can see now that we really do need to shore up the house of cards.


Why not take the next step and stop in? Our General Assembly is at 5:30 on weekdays and 3:00 on weekends. Everyone is welcome.

Like the article. Love the two photographs.

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