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We assumed the liberal revolution (when it finally came) would look like something familiar. We thought that one day, in a better world, we might actually get a smart, electable, liberal candidate—someone like Barack Obama. And then he appeared. And that was shocking, weird. And then just as we’re trying to motivate ourselves to believe in him again, this totally other, new thing suddenly comes along. Occupy Wall Street doesn’t look or sound at all like politics. It says things we don’t have the courage to say in front of strangers. It rejects compromise. It’s weirder even than Obama, who once seemed as weird and as good a thing as liberals could ever reasonably hope to see in the United States. It’s so weird we don’t even know yet if we like it. We dreamed of this for years, but we never pictured it with drum lines and pizza boxes and five-hour general assemblies. We’re like one of those new countries, accustomed to centuries of tribalism and authoritarian rule, now offered freedom so suddenly that we don’t know what to make of it. Is this what democracy looks like?

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