There are perhaps four main types who participate in -- or sympathize with -- the charade of such protests:
1. The manipulators. They are the demagogues of any stripe -- including but not limited to celebrities, professors, journalists, politicians, labor leaders, activist clergy, students -- who spout the jargon but are invested only in their personal power. Among them, beneath the radar, is the top 1 percent of the movement: wannabe wizards hiding behind a curtain, programming the spectacle of their own 99 percent.
2. The true believers. As above, they are of all walks of life, but are either sincerely disgruntled or merely programmed. They actually appear to believe all that stuff about how corporations and free markets are the source of all life's problems.
3. The sad cases and fun-lovers. This is the mixed bag you'd see around many urban gatherings, including the unemployed, the mentally ill, and bored kids who come to act up, get laid, dance and gripe. They have little intelligible to say, but their numbers add to the perception of "popular support."
4. The potential fence-sitters, those who could go either way, given the prevailing winds of politics. They simply want to feel socially connected and perhaps a little heroic, and therefore claim to sympathize with the left. They fear the tainting and social isolation that may come with accepting a conservative message. They don't grasp the consequences of their actions. But given the right circumstances, they are capable of being informed and realigning.
There's much overlap among all groups.
But only the fence sitters -- often your family, neighbors, friends, classmates, colleagues or co-workers -- can be effectively engaged.
We conservatives who understand and cherish real liberty must engage these folks in daily life with friendly questions, such as: What is your opinion about these protests? What are the limits of government? What happens without free markets? How is it good to surrender all economic choices to one central power?
We can express disquiet about where benevolent central control inevitably leads. (It's such "tenderness" that "leads to the gas chamber," in the words of Flannery O'Connor and Walker Percy.) But mostly, we must ask questions to clarify thought that's been infected with manipulative talking points.
I know because I was once among that fourth group. I was able to change because of the kindness of conservatives who reached over from the other side. They didn't tell me my leftist jargon was stupid and they didn't confront me with anger or irritation.
They were willing to be my friends and listen. However, they did not hide their opinions, their knowledge and their fears.
Initially, I was shocked to be face to face on friendly terms with "right-wingers," whom I had always assumed were bad guys and bigots. Having been in the dark for so long, my eyes resisted strong sunlight.
Eventually, I listened in return. Seeds of doubt were planted. When I studied Soviet history, the ugly truth of centralized power became forever rooted in me. The facts of millions of lives lost and terrorized under Stalin could never again be reconciled to my ignorant flirtation with the forces of such cruelty.
But it was genuine personal acceptance from the other side that facilitated my escape from the trap of leftist mind-set and gave me a sense of connection and safe harbor.
More conservatives must venture out of self-imposed isolation and likewise expose the dangers of left-wing "liberation" to any potential fence-sitter they personally know.
Simply be non-threatening. Start with a friendly one, someone who likes and respects you. If each of us can reach just one of them, we can stop a global train wreck.
Stella Morabito is a Maryland freelance writer with a master's degree in Russian history.