Can’t you just play nice?

It’s one of the most popular NY Times articles on Facebook this morning.  Yes, a bonafide Times columnist, Nick Kristof, finally went down to Liberty Plaza to interview the Occupy Wall Street protesters.

But what does he come back with?  A strong personal defense of capitalism as a philosophy (“I don’t share the antimarket sentiments of many of the protesters”), and a condescending pat on the head for the demonstrators, who, he says, don’t really know why they’re there (“Where the movement falters is in its demands: It doesn’t really have any”).

Let me help, Kristof suggests.  His advice, listed in neat bullet points in his column today, is nothing you haven’t heard before from various left-of-center sources.  Tax financial transactions, close tax loopholes, regulate banks more carefully.  Nothing wrong with these ideas for reform–though they’re not exactly galvanizing.

But what’s infuriating is the way the establishment, from reporters to editors to cops & the Mayor, is treating the protests as child’s play: a source of amused wink-winks, not to be taken too seriously.  Give them some finger-wags, accompanied if necessary by some wrist-slaps (or pepper-spray, or tricky mass-arrest scenarios), and they’ll go home.  Let’s all just play nice.

Well, was it playing nice to “allow” hundreds of protesters to gain access to the Brooklyn Bridge roadway, and then round them up like cattle and haul them off to jail?

Is it nice to continuously infantilize the movement by pretending that the people in Liberty Square don’t know why they’re there or what they stand for?

Why are they there? The 99% says it all. To protest the ever-widening income disparity in this country, and the lack of political or ideological support for change.

A protest song from the 1960s has been running around in my brain this week.  It’s called “It isn’t nice,” and it goes like this:

It isn’t nice to block the doorways/It isn’t nice to go to jail/There are nicer ways to do it/But the nice ways always fail/It isn’t nice, it isn’t nice/Well thank you buddy for your advice/But if that’s freedom’s price/We don’t mind, no no no, we don’t mind!

Give it a listen, and pass it along.

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