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The Daily Tar Heel

‘Occupy UNC’ has to tell a story

Two Fridays ago, a kvetch took aim at a prominent conservative student voice: “To Anthony Dent: Calling yourself a valued perspective at UNC is like calling Ann Coulter an intellectual. Oh wait, you did that too.”

The kvetch, in a certain sense, was right. Conservative student voices have not been valued in my experience, as a progressive, at UNC. Period.

Those voices are not valued in a larger context either. I have been taught my whole life to dismiss conservatism as racist, homophobic and behind the times.

A conservative politics that is, in fact, racist and homophobic is one that I cannot stand for. But to think all conservative politics is based in un-interrogated privilege — and that it offers nothing to building a stronger country and stronger world — is a prejudice we hold at our own peril.

A political climate of cheap shots and parody means that we fail to see our political energies for building better communities — most recently expressed in the Occupy UNC protests in the Pit — as an opportunity for all of us.

This, in turn, has prevented us from what history tells us is the only articulation that the protests truly need: not demands, but a common “Story of Us.”

Three months ago, a small group of Israelis pitched tents in downtown Tel Aviv to protest a lack of affordable housing, a lack of an adequate social safety net and a poverty of collective community that gripped so many in Israel.

Two months later, 7 percent of Israel took to the street to join them. Seven percent.

In American terms, that would be about 20 million people.

Like the Occupy Wall Street protestors, Israelis resisted articulating any single, unified platform. What they articulated, instead, was a common story.

It was a story of a country that had been too distracted by external conflict to address internal issues. A nation whose citizens grew up learning the value of being each other’s keeper was now one where a teacher could not afford a home in Tel Aviv. A people had become divided and balkanized. Israelis had better visions for their country.

Every Israeli — conservative and liberal — could see themselves within this story. And because they were able to do so, every Israeli enlisted in the project of articulating a new Israel.

Our stories, here in the U.S., are disjointed. Some of us tell stories of unrealized potential, and some of us tell stories of hardship.

But the only collective experiences that we have gotten articulate about are those of the financially privileged. That is a step away from illuminating the experiences of we who are not rich.

We need a “Story of Us” to raise Occupy Wall Street from a protest movement to a vision movement.

It is time to create and act on a common story that is missing here.

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