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Go right ahead and occupy

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By Meaghan Downs

It’s catchy.
“I am the 99 percent.”
Born well after the era of rallies in the ‘60s and ‘70s, I’ve never seen or experienced a protest first hand.
I tend to protest with my pen or my mouth, and not necessarily with marching or picket signs.
Occupy Wall Street, for those of you not on the frontlines of New York’s Liberty Plaza or knowledgeable about its grassroots campaign across the United States, is defined as a leaderless movement protesting alleged Wall Street greed.
Some call it a campaign for communism. Others declare it a rally for understanding.
Either way, I’m just glad people care.
For too long we’ve been happy being comfortable with indifference.
It was only until the 2008 election that 56.8 percent of the population decided to show up to the polls, the highest voting turnout since 1968.
Of course, there are the neatly packaged calls for change, under the stylized banners of political posturing. Party members who become fair-weather fans of the most attractive team with the most influence and PAC funding.
But political discourse could be so much more than that, especially when it involves us.
I admire the people, on whatever side of whatever issue, who decide to forgo temporarily real life responsibilities to stand up for something they believe is important.
That’s a trait to be admired, not deplored.  
We talk a lot about the Constitution, about what’s constitutional today versus what should be deemed unconstitutional tomorrow.
Two constitutional freedoms we often fail to mention, besides religion and speech, are assembly and petition.
Two freedoms we frequently fail to exercise.
With the exception of perhaps the 10,000 strong Revolution March on Washington in 2008, there hasn’t been a protest of this magnitude or growth in years.
I don’t need to declare myself as an advocate of any side of this economic debate to admire the Occupy Wall Street movement.
I just believe the protest participants, as a whole, are a collective, intelligent body wanting questions answered, not just an ignorant and confused Times Square flash mob gone awry.
But inserting myself into the protests’ story, as the magazine “American Spectator” editor Patrick Howley apparently did, won’t be my goal.  
I’m merely an anthropologist of our nation’s current climate, watching to see how the speeches and protests affect present and potential culture.
Occupy Wall Street may camp out on Wall Street’s doorstep for another month or just a few days.  
Regardless, they’ve taught me, the observer, one thing: use your voice, even if you’re never heard.