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This is my second installment in a series on the Occupy Wall Street movement (OWS).  Over the weekend a national poll came out revealing that public opinion of OWS is, at 35%, relatively low. Predictably, we’ve got media on both sides spinning this poll.

Either way you spin it, it seems the movement is not popular among a majority of Americans.  However, as CBS News points out, the message itself, according to the poll, does seem to resonate with us.  “74 percent of those surveyed believe Americans who are not wealthy have too little influence on politics, while also saying Wall Street and large corporations (80 percent) and PACs (74 percent) have too much influence.”   So then, is it their methods dragging them down?   Is it the protesting itself that seems to irk people so much?

These two editorialists, one from a traditionally liberal and another from a traditionally conservative source, both highlighted some of the OWS methods: Stephen K. Friedman editorializing in The Huffington Post put a positive spin on OWS methods saying: “Where their parents engaged in civil disobedience, the Occupy Wall Street protesters are participating in civilized disobedience. Zuccotti Park is the opposite of anarchy. There’s a lending library and a mulch deposit. When the city wanted to clean up, the protesters refused, preferring to clean the park themselves. OWS’s famed human microphone is a metaphor for the movement: By working together, we can amplify our voices.”

Meanwhile, this editorial in The Economist features a disturbing video of some protestors at an OWS event in DC just generally looking like bullies and thugs. Not inconsequentially, they are at a Tea Party event.  The editorial discusses the OWS “tent cities reeking of trash and the supercilious entitlement of liberal arts majors aggrieved by the realisation that student loans aren’t gifts.”

Wow.  The first seems to describe OWS as a virtual utopia-in-the-making while the second depicts a movement that looks essentially like a giant frat house after a party gone horribly bad.  How are two such differing depictions possible?  Can we please agree that the media can vary so dramatically in its characterizations of movements and messages that responsible parties evaluating them absolutely MUST seek out many voices from several, diverse, and responsible journalistic sources before reaching a conclusion?!?!  Please, people.  Do this.

Protesting enjoys a long and, dare I say, celebrated tradition.  Protests have been at the heart of many of the most well-respected and important political movements in United States (and world) history. Think of the Boston Tea Party, civil rights, suffragism, the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, WTO Protests in Seattle, modern Tea Party protests and Arab Spring protests.

Conservatives and liberals both employ this method of civic engagement, so neither side can completely discredit it’s usefulness or appropriateness in certain situations.  Particularly, this method is utilized when people feel their voices are not effectively being heard or represented in places of power.  Interesting that both sides at this exact moment time seem to feel disenfranchised which has inspired large-scale, active and organized engagement in the public square by liberals and conservatives alike.

Perhaps then it should be no surprise that comparisons of OWS and Tea Party movements are running rampant. I’ve seen a lot of discussion comparing violence in the modern Tea Party protests and in the OWS protests and basically trying to come to the conclusion that violence does not exist in the Tea Party movement.  I know that some on the other side are responding with reminders of seemingly racist incidences that have happened throughout the brief history of the modern Tea Party movement.  Hmmmmmmm…….. I don’t think I want to be the one to mediate.

But what I will do is ask this:  What do these characterizations hope to achieve? I think trying to compare the most reprehensible actions of the two movements to reach some sort of negative general characterization of the constituency of these groups can be dangerous.  Across any large and diverse and sustained movement, there will always be some crazy people who show up.  There are going to be some people looking to start fights.  There are going to be some haters, finding a place to vent their rage.  In fact, the larger the group, the longer the movement, the more crazies will show up.  It’s simple statistics.  There are also going to be some loving, peaceable, hard-working people trying to change something that they think is impacting their lives and the lives of people about which they care.

It’s unfortunate, then, that the voices which receive the most attention in the media are often those that are simply most entertaining to watch as opposed to those that best articulate the heart of the issues.  In fact, media itself in the United States seems most driven by the goal of entertainment rather than the goal of unbiased reporting.  (I believe we as a public need to take our rightful portion of the blame for this because it’s what we’re “buying.”)  The best example of this may be those short segments dedicated to interviewing members of either side of the movement and then editing them so that only the least knowledgeable and most foolish sounding interviewees are represented, the intention being to make the whole movement look stupid and uninformed.  Again, not everybody who shows up for a movement knows how to respond in a well-articulated and composed way on camera….And yes, sometimes they’re just featuring the crazies.  In the age of reality tv we all know the power of intentional editing, do we not?  Can we stop passing these segments around to each other as if they actually “prove” anything about the other side? (Yes, I see the irony in that request as I post them myself. Just trying to give an example from each side to be fair.)

This one depicting OWS:

This one depicting Tea Party:

Knowing people who may identify at least in part with either the Tea Party movement or the OWS movement, I have a hard time characterizing either movement as entirely evil or stupid.  But I hear a lot of speech floating around that comes awfully close to that.  It’s not so far from characterizations of the members of earlier political movements we’ve now come to respect.  We all can imagine the “names” endured by the suffragettes, the civil rights advocates, the American revolutionaries.  “Uppity”, “un-educated”, “dirty”– these are highly-polished versions of the names actually used.  Name-calling and prejudicial characterizations of entire groups just seems to be creating an angrier more contentious environment in which to try to have a national discussion.  I don’t let my kids call each other names when they are working through an issue.  Maybe we adults can try to restrain ourselves, too.

The tough thing is to distinguish when a few bad apples become a whole rotten bunch.   I think it becomes absolutely critical for others within the movement, instead of closing ranks and getting defensive or lashing out to attack the other side, to call out fellow members when they cross the line so that the whole group doesn’t become complicit in these acts.  In this way, the movement can preserve the dignity and integrity of their message and the movement as a whole.  Frankly, name-calling only makes me question the name-caller’s legitimacy.

Now here comes the complicated part:  Sometimes only history will tell us which of these acts were “justifiable” means to reach the positive ends.  For example, looting, fires and some pretty contentious run-ins with the police were important turning points and attention-raising events in some of the protest events upon which we look most favorably today (think Boston Tea Party, civil rights movement, Tiananmen Square 1989).  Personally, I’m not a fan of any of these more violent methods but does their success prove me wrong?

So my question for you is this:  Within civic engagement, which actions are never justifiable means to an end?  Where is there grey area?  Is there any way to distinguish before we have the benefit of hindsight?

For today’s recipe, I borrowed heavily from an idea featured on La Fuji Mama.  She’s got a lot of fun, interesting recipes on her blog and she recently featured a Pulled Pork and Roasted Tomato Donburi (rice bowl) inspired by her own visit to Japan.  Her method for smoking the pulled pork was wonderfully do-able!  I knew the tomatoes wouldn’t be a go for at least two members of my family, so in an effort to find a different way to incorporate vegetables AND to round out the meal (and be a little sneaky, recreating a favorite treat of my husband with the perpetually bachelor-like palette), I decided to try a homemade and healthier version of Ramen soup.

Note:  This sized roast produces PLENTY of pulled pork.  However, La Fuji Mama noted that a smaller one may dry out too easily.  I used a slightly smaller size and also used a pork loin roast instead and so I drizzled some sesame oil on the bottom of the crockpot in order to compensate for a smaller, less fatty roast.

Als, I just picked up some Chinese 5-Spice blend and I think I’ll throw some in next time I try this.

This is in honor of the poor college-kid in all of us:

Healthy Ramen Soup

La Fuji Mama’s Smokey Pulled Pork

2.5 pounds pork shoulder roast
2 teaspoons coarse sea salt
2 teaspoons liquid smoke flavoring

Other Soup Ingredients:

1 pkg. Chinese noodles
Sesame oil to drizzle over noodles (per package instructions)
32 oz. of stock
1 tsp. minced ginger
1 T. Sriracha hot chili sauce
2 c. vegetables, slivered to about the size of a match. Ideas include leeks, mushrooms, green onions, carrots, jalapenos.

Make the Pulled Pork: Pierce the pork roast all over with the tip of a sharp knife. Place the roast in a large slow cooker and rub the salt all over the meat. Drizzle the liquid smoke over the meat. Cover the slow cooker and cook on high heat for 6 hours, turning the roast over once half-way through the cooking time. When the meat easily shreds with a fork it is ready. Remove the meat from the slow cooker and shred with two forks, adding drippings from the slow cooker as needed to moisten the meat.

Prepare the Chinese noodles according to package directions using the broth instead of water. Add the ginger and hot chili sauce. If you desire slightly softer vegetables, add those as well. You may want to just blanch them by adding to the last minute of the noodle’s cooking time. When the noodles are done, strain them reserving the broth. Separating the noodles from the broth at this point keeps them from getting soggy in case they are left out for a period of time or in case you have leftovers.

Assemble the soup, adding the noodles back to the broth. Place some pulled pork on top and then vegetables as well. Serve with Sriracha as a condiment for those who may want to add more heat. Serves approx. 4 with lots of great pork left over.