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Shared goals

Occupy Ashland and Tea Party can find common ground
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Jada, left, and Cindy Matthiesen of Rogue River came dressed in red, white and blue for the Tea Party Express II rally earlier this year in Medford's Alba Park.Jamie Lusch
 Posted: 2:00 AM December 14, 2011

After attending a Tea Party rally and speaking to leaders of the Occupy protests, I came to the conclusion that both groups have a lot more in common than they may think.

Occupy Ashland and Tea Party supporters say that the American Dream is being co-opted by the few — the elite and influential. For Occupy proponents, Wall Street has strangled the middle class. For the Tea Party, it's an over-reaching government.

The message from both groups is strong and simple. Glance around any of the rallies and protests and you'll see people of all cultures, races and ages. They are asking for jobs, less corruptive interference and more taxpayer fairness.

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We believe in a Republic that the people are the ones who give direction to the government. But the only way that will happen is when the people join together with basic agreements. Can we?

Both groups share another trait: Their message is getting lost in national politics. People on the extreme left and the extreme right are dictating the direction and derailing the groups' missions. The groups say that they are not aligned politically with either Democrats or Republicans, and yet extreme leanings in both camps are corroding the general message.

A difference I see between the two groups is that it is much easier for the Occupy Ashland group to effect change here than the Tea Party. That is because Ashland's predominant liberal leaning lends itself more to the Occupy Ashland group. For those silent Tea Party members who live in Ashland, there seems to be little hope for representation. There are members of the city council who may be less liberal than others, but the majority of people just don't seem to be willing to listen to other points of view.

I would like to suggest that both groups hold a meeting to discuss what is more important than their differences — their agreements. All viewpoints could be heard, emphasizing that Ashlanders are not living in a house divided.

Let's remember that both groups are looking for solutions. Both want to be part of the change. Together, these two groups could lend their voices to a movement that could benefit us here and across America.

Jamelle M. McCampbell moved to Ashland in 2010 and has been a general manager at an international and small-business-oriented corporate law practice in Washington D.C. for more than 35 years.

By John Stern, An Acts Matter essay for the Tidings

I agree with much of what Ms. McCampbell is stating. Both Tea Party and Occupy are grassroots movements and both are a response to economic imbalance and inequality. Tea Parties came about as an expression of outrage to the 2009 bailouts and Obamacare. Occupy also arose as a response to economic inequality but also typically states a much longer list of areas of dissatisfaction.

The most important similarity is the spirit with which the two groups convene: Caring for our neighbors, gathering together, looking squarely at the issues and knowing what is obviously not working, listening to one another, acknowledging differences but respecting those differences nonetheless, realizing that it is up to us to make the changes, electing responsible representatives, and then repeating the above steps again and again for as long as it takes to create the world we want and deserve.

Here in Jackson County, Occupy and Tea Party can work together to create meaningful jobs, bring about affordable health care, take the money out of politics and much more.

Occupy is very much open to all voices being heard in the spirit of consensus and would welcome Tea Partiers to participate. Let us look for what we have in common and move forward from there. Let us also be wary of forces that would divide us because they are very real and have until now been successful in many grassroots movements. And yet, as one Occupy chant states so simply and elegantly: "The people, united, will never be defeated."

John Stern manufactures devices used for healing and electromagnetic radiation protection. He is an Ashland resident and has been involved in Occupy Ashland since its beginning.

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