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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 8:34pm]
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