When we finally made it to Zuccotti Park, the first person I saw camping out was a stoned-looking guy with a banjo standing next to a guy holding an upside-down American flag. These are the heroes we marched in solidarity with? This guy is our Wael Ghonim?
When I got home, I heard that Steve Jobs passed away. I was much more upset about his death than I expected to be. I’m not sure why but I immediately went on YouTube and looked up the “Think Different” commercial. My younger, more radical self hated the ad for exploiting Martin Luther King to sell computers, but I was moved this time around. “Here’s to the crazy ones” the narrator reads, “…the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
I thought about the drugged-out dude with the banjo: one of the crazy ones. And the dude with the upside down flag and the one with the severed head and the anti-fracking obsessive and the people jonesing for a confrontation with the cops: all crazy ones. Crazy ones who sparked the first mass outpouring of left-wing activism in years, who have finally provided a visible counter to the free market fanaticism of the Tea Party. Crazy ones who have reignited a conversation about class in America.
The pragmatic progressives like me didn’t start this movement. We thought about the long-term impact for the Left and the short-term electoral optics for Democrats. When the economy collapsed, we were quiet, the Tea Party spoke up, and the rage the country felt was directed towards government, not Wall Street. In short, we were afraid.
Thankfully, the crazy ones weren’t.
And in spite of all I saw that I didn’t like, there were clear signs that the movement is maturing, getting more organized, coalescing around a message: “We Are The 99%.” Like the protesters in Tahrir, there are clean-up crews keeping Zuccotti as spiffy as possible. Organizers are even enforcing message discipline by urging supporters on Twitter to shorten protest-related hashtags from #OccupyWallSt to #OWS.
Perhaps it’s a natural evolution, but it also seems likely that the movement is changing because the seasoned organizers and pragmatists are working alongside the radical idealists who were there from the start.
The only reason those pragmatists are there is because the crazy ones took the first steps.