Sunday, April 17, 2011

From Monticello to Menomonie - Small World!

I am honored to say that I spent the afternoon with a gentleman by the name of Jim, whose last name ends with a "son," and starts with either Guller or Geller or Gellef or Gellec...something like that...ANYWAY....

Jim is one of those folks that we owe a huge debt of gratitude to - especially those of my friends who know anyone working in the school district of my hometown in Monticello.

Jim and I, along with a crew of a half dozen other teachers, went to Star Prairie, WI today to gather signatures for the final push in the Recall Sheila Harsdorff campaign. We drove in Jim's minivan from Menomonie, which was about a 20 minute drive. He and I got to talking, and I told him where I was from, why I was personally concerned, and why I was volunteering. Jim talked about his time in the service, and working for the post office, and also about his time as a teacher. We swapped stories for a bit, and finally Jim said, "Ok, I'm going to let you in here." He paused for a second.

"I taught at Monticello. In 1962, I was one of the organizers who got the American Federation of Teachers union (AFT) started there. We did get the union in but the district fired me as soon as the vote came through." Jim went on to tell me about the AFT and its victories on behalf of teachers that it has now become known for. He was very proud of the work the AFT has done. As the day went on he told me about how he wished he could spend more time fighting, how it never seemed enough, and how difficult it was to sit back and watch without engaging on behalf of the community.

I sympathize with him, and I think many of us can feel that sense of fatigue this spring. This is part of the reason I took last week off from this blog. I have an unhelpfully angry screed that I had half-typed up - forget it. I think it's amazing that we almost beat Prosser. My earlier post still holds true. I also want to give the lady in Waukesha the benefit of the doubt. I think she's incompetent, and needs to resign. She shouldn't be counting anything, based on her previous performance. I don't think she stole the election on purpose. It has been tough for me to stay on the sidelines as people on our side allege fraud and conspiracy. It will be much easier after we've conducted a full investigation to look back in hindsight, but for some reason I'm still assuming good intentions on this lady's part. But enough about that. We'll have recall elections soon enough!

After our time today, I thought about Jim a bit more. Jim lost his job so that others could have a union. He stood up and fought for fair wages and classroom conditions, staked his reputation on the cause, and paid a cost. As we sit here now in relative comfort, within a state that has a more-than-above-average education system and 96% health care coverage, let's not forget that this wasn't an accident. People worked for this, and if they had stopped, not much of what we see today would have ever came to pass.

Jim is part of a generation that fought for us. He still fights today. He still wonders if he could do more. He writes letters to the editor, knocks on doors, and has polite conversations with those who may disagree. He supports those of us young whipper-snappers who are out to continue the fight. It is for Jim that I went out today, but it's also for the yet-to-be-born....those that will someday put up with me as I turn up my hearing aid and find my prescription sunglasses in my jacket.

Jim can be proud of what he's worked for, and I think someday we'll be proud of our fight as well. We fight a good fight, and if we keep it up, Jim is living proof that we can and will win some huge victories. We can be proud then, but I think we should already be happy with ourselves. We've come together this spring and as long as we keep showing up, we will take back the Senate this summer. Then we can start with Walker next year, and take back the executive branch as well. But don't wait for it - work for it! Wisconsin will be ours!