Occupy Congress is in a little over 2 weeks, or is supposed to be, and it should be a fun and interesting day. I see this event as a huge opportunity to create a dialogue between the establishment and those who are trying to change it; a way to make a transition between older systems and new possible and enjoyable.
In lieu of preparing for the worst and increasing security protocols around this event and baring participants to chat with representatives I would like to offer the following advice to members of congress and their staff, though they probably already know this.
VIEW OCCUPY CONGRESS AS AN OPPORTUNITY, NOT A DISASTER
The Occupy movement has shown itself to be resilient, powerful, headline catching and popular. As an elected official, even beyond if you agree with the movement or not (and some of you have already jumped on the bandwagon) it is important to recognize the waxing and waning of popularity and to recognize was of engaging your constituents. The Occupy has a momentum that can continue as long as people have the energy and the passion and the ability to stay engaged. The internet and social media makes us all able to be informed and interacting, even without being on the mainland. This is an opportunity to look like a legislator who speaks to all sides, all parties and welcomes a challenge of the non-traditional constituent. When Occupy Congress comes, welcome it as something exciting and new, don't shun it.
BE HOSPITABLE, "SOUTHERN STYLE."
Growing up with my family being from Texas I have picked up on something amazing about the south. The concept of being "Southern Sweet" basically being as hospitable as you can and overly sweet to strangers. Treat the Occupiers like you welcoming a newcomer to your village and you want to show it off and make sure they leave with a smile on their face. Don't refuse their permit for the Occupy date, make it easy for them. Remember that even if a permit isn't issued, that won't mean the occupation won't happen. Look into getting them port-o-potties, food vendors and water fountains. Think about ways that you can turn this into YOUR event, how YOU made it easier for the community to engage with their elected representatives. Hell, bake them German Chocolate Political Cake, always works at Union Halls.
PREPARE THE HELL OUT OF YOURSELF & YOUR STAFF BEFORE THE EVENT
At the early stages of the Occupy Movement the Colbert Report actually went out and interviewed the participants of the Movement and, in a great segment Colbert showed very quickly and simply that though they be marginalized based on their "disorganization" or their appearance - the Occupiers are pretty together.
|The Colbert Report||Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
|Wall Street Under Siege|
They are going to know the issues well, and they are going to test you and your staff on it. Do NOT be afraid to say "I am not sure on that, let me look it up" but don't try the normal skirting the issue poppycockery, it won't work. Do not underestimate them, they are organized and have almost immediate access to information. Keep a tab on their conversation stream. WATCH the "#J17" results for Twitter. It is the official hashtag of Occupy Congress. It would even be a good idea to engage in that conversation. Say something to the effect of "I look forward to chatting with you on January 17th" or "If you want some face to face time with me, come to my staff's tent on the Mall at 2:30 to 5:30" or "come to my open offices hours for the day of Jan. 17th between 12:15 and 5:15pm" just engage with them.
Odds are they are going to know your record better than you do and, given the opportunity, they will call you out on it. Just be honest and if you don't remember a certain subject or vote, they will hopefully forgive you for being human. The more honest you are with people and the more you actually have a conversation with them, the better this whole process will be.
I want to end with this; a note to the Occupy Congress occupiers. Sit-ins, popular movements and protests are great methods of participating in the political system and having your voice heard, but don't forget the most basic and most important aspect of the political system; - #occupythevote