Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Protesting is good, but going to the polls is too

The Daily Show would have loved the sign I saw the other day, now that the mocking of the Occupy movement is in full force.

Jon Stewart's daily dish recently had a go at New York protesters for being bizarrely dressed, generally slackerish and given to wanton dancing. CNN's Erin Burnett went the superior sorority girl route, smugly pointing to one oddly costumed participant as only, "that."

Still, under that smug are good questions about a gone-global movement surely making the 1 percent a little nervous over their nightly cognacs. Who exactly is it occupying streets from New York to Seattle? What do they want? And do they even vote?

When I hit our own Occupy Tampa camp to ask, what do I see but a guy with a sign in red letters that says: TOFU IS MURDER!

And … um … okay.

Even the other Occupiers were scratching their heads at that. They had signs more down with the financial inequality theme: STOP CAPITALIZING. PEOPLE NOT PROFITS. And the all-important reminder: WE'RE STILL HERE.

The group united against corporate greed and bought-and-sold government is more tattoos than ties, a few bare feet, a couple of homeless and one mohawked guy with duct tape on his mouth whom the TV cameras can't seem to get enough of. The crowd, on this rainy day down to about a dozen, turns out to be made up of both voters and those who say they are too disillusioned.

On the curb I meet two women in their 50s, morning walking partners who "solve the political problems" and "save the world in a 5-mile walk." Barb Sherry — here with Karen Joseph, a STRENGTH IN UNITY sign and an American flag — says the young people she's met are "good-hearted." But as someone who hasn't missed a chance to cast a ballot, what does she think of people who say they don't vote because it doesn't seem to matter?

"I have a lot of sympathy for them because I think there's a lot of truth in their feelings," she says. "But I feel like if we give up the good fight. … "

A DJ named John Thomas tells me he hasn't voted in years because he can't see a difference in the candidates. Kevin Flynn, a soft-spoken Army vet, doesn't trust the system to turn out someone who represents the people, so he does this, trying "to indirectly affect change."

That disillusionment is something I hear a lot lately from young people I know who didn't see the big change they hoped for the last time around. Why should I vote if it doesn't rock the world? And you can't say "because it can" enough.

I also meet Pepe "Slamdunk" Kovanis, a 30-year-old organic gardener who voted for Obama and will vote again in 2012, "absolutely." Shane Ali, a freelance videographer out there in a Bob Marley T-shirt, has already filed to run for state representative.

There's Alicia Dion, a 24-year-old University of Florida grad in a Glee shirt who says she couldn't afford law school (too bad, because she sure can argue her case on, say, the absurdity of homeless on our streets as foreclosed houses sit empty). She votes and "tried to get as many people to vote as I possibly could."

I do applaud a good protest, particularly one to unnerve the powerful. But not voting, not adding your voice there, too, might be the surest way to stay among the mocked rather than the ones politicians actually listen to.

Protesting is good, but going to the polls is too 10/20/11 [Last modified: Thursday, October 20, 2011 7:34pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Lightning approaches decision time for Mikhail Sergachev

    Lightning Strikes

    COLUMBUS, Ohio — Mikhail Sergachev had dinner with his host family from juniors Monday.

    The Lightning has to decide, as early as this weekend whether Mikhail Sergachev will stick in the NHL or return to juniors for another season. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times]
  2. Tampa man charged in hit-and-run crash that killed bicyclist on I-4 exit ramp in Tampa


    TAMPA — A 44-year-old Tampa man was arrested and charged Wednesday in a hit-and-run crash that killed a bicyclist earlier in the day.

    Christopher Jerimiah Cole, 44, of Tampa was driving this silver Mercedes on Wednesday when it struck a bicyclist on the exit ramp from eastbound Interstate 4 to southbound U.S. 301, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. Cole kept driving, troopers said. The bicyclist, a 45-year-old Brandon man, died at the scene. His name was not immediately released because troopers were working to notify his family. [Florida Highway Patrol]
  3. Quarterbacks, head coach targeting Vernon Hargreaves; 'I'm not producing,' he says


    Eli Manning gathered his receivers together during the Giants' Week 4 game against the Bucs and informed them of the weakest link of the secondary he planned to target that afternoon.

    Quarterbacks this season have a 128.7 rating when targeting Vernon Hargreaves. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  4. Rick Baker's radio ad said Rick Kriseman missed NAACP event---but he didn't.


    A radio ad narrated by St. Petersburg civil rights activist Sevell Brown and paid for by a political-action committee supporting Rick Baker asserts that Mayor Rick Kriseman "couldn't be bothered to show up" for a recent NAACP event.

    Rick Kriseman didn't skip recent NAACP event, but Rick Baker radio ad claims he did
  5. Demolition begins on wing of Channelside Bay Plaza, making way for Water Street Tampa (w/video)


    TAMPA — The original developers of Channelside Bay Plaza at first wanted the name of the complex to include the word "Garrison." That would have fit, because the center turned out to be fort-like, inwardly focused and unwelcoming.

    A pedestrian bridge in the southwest wing of Channelside Bay Plaza was demolished in Tampa on Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017. [Gabriella Angotti-Jones  | Times]