Occupy Suburbia?

What would an “Occupy Suburbia” look like?

For a few weeks now, a movement has been spreading across America. It started with Occupy Wall Street, a protest in New York City. Now, there have been similar protests in cities across America. But I wonder what such a thing might mean in the suburbs of America. This isn’t merely idle speculation for me. I serve as intern minister at the First Parish in Needham (Ma.), Unitarian Universalist. I’ve only been there for a few weeks now, so I’m only beginning to get the lay of the land inside the church, much less in the surrounding community. But it seems to me that we’re all in this together—this economy, this country, this culture, this world.

If the Occupy movement has brought attention to anything—and it has—it’s that what happens in our financial sector affects all of us. We are interconnected, and a system that leaves some behind should be unacceptable to all of us. Which is what leads me to wonder what this all means in the suburbs, where most (though not all) are better off, making decent wages and not worried about where their next meal is coming from.

I wonder how far this movement will spread, and how it will end. This won’t be known for a long time, I’m aware.

I went down to Occupy Boston a week ago to get the lay of the land, and to help make my own mind up about this. In many ways, it’s unimpressive, little more than a few dozen tents on a little piece of land in the middle of skyscrapers in downtown Boston. But clearly, this movement has tapped into something powerful.

And maybe that’s where the suburbs fit in. We’re all connected, and I think that calls all of us to be in solidarity with the oppressed, both in our backyard and around the world. We must stand as one to make a better world. It is my hope that Occupy can be a part of that.

4 Responses to “Occupy Suburbia?”
  1. I think the ‘burbs will be where the legacy of the Occupies will be decided. I thought about this while sitting in the intersection in front of South Station on Monday. A large portion of my congregation and my neighbors pass through the station most days. Whether they participate or not (or agree or not) the story of the protests is their story. They experience it while bringing their own experiences. They take that back with them on the train and to the kids’ soccer practice and–eventually for some of them–to church. Others find themselves in the march or among the tents and bring that back with them, too.

    It is important that this exchange happens. After all, the ‘burbs are isolated places in many respects, not just from city and country, but from each other. By their nature they look inward.

    Anyway, much more of this and I will have my own blog post (sorry). Welcome to the neighborhood!

    • Christian says:

      Adam, I agree. I was just struck, having started to work at a suburban congregation (the first time I have really done so), that this movement is not, right now, in the suburbs. Certainly not geographically, and in many ways not in the worldview of that. I’m interested to see where this all goes.

  2. I agree with you, too! The slow infiltration of new ideas is, I think, a by-product of the inward bent of many suburbs You cannot understand what your back is looking at sometimes…

    As for working at a suburban congregation you should give me a call and we can have coffee. It is something I think about a lot. I am in Natick (Eliot Church in case you haven’t figured that out) and not hard to find. 🙂

  3. RalfW says:

    Hey Christian, found you via a Twitter RT. I think this is interesting…it looks like you may be right that suburbia is ready for the messages of the Occupy movement.

    Posted at 08:48 AM ET, 10/13/2011
    The Morning Plum
    By Greg Sargent

    Americans favor Occupy Wall Street far more than Tea Party: Despite nonstop GOP and conservative disparagement of the Wall Street protests, the most detailed polling yet on Occupy Wall Street suggests that the public holds a broadly favorable view of the movement — and, crucially, the positions it holds.

    Time released a new poll this morning finding that 54 percent view the Wall Street protests favorably, versus only 23 percent who think the opposite. Interestingly, only 23 percent say they don’t have an opinion, suggesting the protests have succeeded in punching through to the mainstream. Also: The most populist positions espoused by Occupy Wall Street — that the gap between rich and poor has grown too large; that taxes should be raised on the rich; that execs responsible for the meltdown should be prosecuted — all have strong support.

    Meanwhile, the poll found that only 27 percent have a favorable view of the Tea Party. My handy Plum Line calculator tells me that this amounts to half the number of those who view Occupy Wall Street favorably.

    In fairness, the Tea Party has been in existence since before the 2010 elections, and even has had a seat at the governing table during the debt ceiling and government shutdown debacles, which clearly took their toll on the Tea Party’s image. Occupy Wall Street is just getting started. But it does seem clear that a confluence of events — the protests, Obama’s jobs push, Elizabeth Warren’s Senate candidacy, and the national backlash from the right all these things have provoked — are pushing populist issues such as fair taxation and income inequality to the forefront of the national conversation.

    It turns out we don’t live in Tea Party Nation, after all.

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