Monday, November 28, 2011

Who is "They" and Why Don't "They" Do Something?

A friend of mine "finally" signed the petition. This is awesome, especially because he's one of the rare independent-minded friends I have. Not that I'm ripping on any of my other friends, but I'll put it bluntly: I'm blessed with a lot of like-minded friends this fall, and I tend to gravitate towards people of the same political bent. I think most of us do that.

ANYWAY, he made a tongue-in-cheek comment about the need for door-to-door canvassing during the recall. His comment was, "Maybe they should do door-to-door canvassing, I had to seek out a petition." My comment back was, "Maybe you should volunteer!" Believe me, we're nearly there. We've been doing well without it thus far in Eau Claire, posting people on busy corners and awaiting drive-thrus. Partially because of this, we've yet to hit the neighborhoods door-to-door.

Both of us are joking - a little. He is right - it's time for us to start with the door-to-door work. We're doing well so far without it, but that work is likely to be coming soon. Not everyone drives past us and has time to stop just then. And I know he's a busy guy - two little kids and a job with weird hours. I can't fault him that much for not volunteering.

On the other hand, I've been blessed to meet so many folks that chip in any spare time they have to this effort. It's overwhelming. It makes me wonder, if we had a little more time and a few more people, just what we could accomplish. We could move mountains in Wisconsin.

We don't always have the energy all the time to get out and hit the pavement. I know I don't - I need time to rest, to relax, play music, and spend time with my family. I'm probably not the leading volunteer out of Eau Claire. But that's the best thing about it - you don't need to be either. One hour, one Saturday, two hours on a Thursday afternoon, just a little bit here or there - you can make the difference. You can be one more person that stood up to power in Wisconsin.

They rely on you staying home, not paying attention, and accepting the status quo. You challenge it with every comment, every signature you get, every happy honk you hear, and believe it or not, every negative comment you choose to ignore.

There is not a prize for the best volunteer. If there is, I don't think I'll win it. I've seen too many great people out there giving more than I could even imagine. But there is no greater reward worth striving for than a better government.

So, to my friend who has not volunteered yet - it's awesome that you posted your political preference on your facebook page in the first place. It's awesome that you signed. To my other friends working hard out there in the trenches, THANK YOU! Our victory is there in every moment that our hearts are in it. Keep moving ahead! Signature after signature, vote after vote, conversation after conversation - we will win this fight simply because it's being fought. As long as apathy remains dead, our cause lives a very healthy life. Wisconsin will be ours!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Screaming and Hollering

"I can hire one-half of the working class to kill the other half." - Jay Gould, 19th Century Industrialist

"Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires." - John Steinbeck
Today I stood on a busy corner with a group of 3 ladies as we collected signatures for the recall of Governor Scott Walker. It's Black Friday, meaning hoards of people are out getting the deals for Christmas shopping. Apparently, it's also open season for screaming at recall volunteers.

The good news first: We collected loads of signatures in this prime location. We had a steady stream of folks coming up to sign. I even helped a blind guy sign the petition. That's right: legally, he just needs to make his mark. He was able to write his name on the dotted line like everyone else. That's democracy for you!

The kind of off-putting news was the level of anger directed at our group of people. We tried to have fun with it, keeping score of the number of drive-by screamers by the color of car they drove. I was maroon. That meant that every time a person in a maroon car screamed violently at us, I got a point in my favor. I ended my 2 hour session with 3 points. Losing to white was sort of obvious, as white is a more popular color. I think white had 4 points, and blue had 3 points.

But I have to say, the level of violence directed at us is a bit frightening. Last night volunteers went out essentially all hours of the night, gathering signatures from people in line for Target and Best Buy. Apparently people nearly called the cops on a gentleman who was physically threatening people.

It's obvious: we aren't just fighting billionaires far away. We're up against a paranoid group of people right here in our own communities. The idea of self-governance is so far removed from some folks that they seem to see our very democracy as a thing to be stamped out. And not lightly - violently!

I'd like to think that we'll bridge this gap, and let cooler heads prevail. But I don't exactly know how that happens, if all of our dialogue takes place with me on a street corner and you driving through a stop light with your foot on the gas.

I became fast friends with the ladies on the corner today. We are going through something uniquely ours, taking grief for it, dusting ourselves off, and smiling when the next kind citizen walks up to sign our petitions. Maybe the angry yelling man or woman will always exist in the political landscape, but we can make them footnotes in history. Someday they will be embarrassed to admit that they behaved so ridiculously.

We, on the other hand, have a moment in time that we will always be proud to remember. The entire reason I began this blog was in order to have a written record of my thoughts and experiences through this fight. One day, decades later, I want to look back and be proud of what we accomplished. My kids, my grandkids, my great-grandkids - they will all know what we did in Wisconsin in 2011. We stood up to power, we fought past Mister and Mrs. Angrypants, and we stemmed the tide of right-wing power, both in our state and in our country. Keep working, keep volunteering, and keep fighting. Don't stop. Our state motto is Forward. Let's keeping moving, kids! Wisconsin will be ours!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Why I'm Signing the Petition To Recall Scott Walker

Today Wisconsin embarks on a historic journey into unprecedented territory for our state. In a few hours, I'll be signing the petition to recall Scott Walker.

I'm done listening to the billionaires who ruined our economy tell us we need to sacrifice more. I'm tired of seeing laws passed that funnel money into the pockets of few at the expense of many. I'm sick of hearing that very practice referred to as "shrinking government."

I want to grow old in a state that values its neighbors and its communities. Scott Walker's dream of Wisconsin is a modern feudalistic nightmare, leaving our fate in the hands of 21st century lords of industry as we patiently wait for their scraps.

The laws he passes to "spur competition" instead stifle it. He professes to protect human life and then guts social programs for the poor, the elderly, and the unemployed. He takes that money and dangles it in front of waiting entrepreneurs - folks whose only interest in our state is our willingness to labor cheaply on their behalf. And we're supposed to thank him, and them, for the favor.

This fall, I'm signing the petition because I want to deliver a message to the oligarchs of America: their factories, businesses, schools, and hospitals exist because of the people. We work every single day to keep their outfits operating. Without our labor, they have nothing. When an economic downturn happens, they gladly fire half of us and tell us to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. Then they ride off into the sunset with cash overflowing from their pockets.

In Wisconsin, they're taking everything they can, for a variety of reasons that don't even stand up to basic levels of scrutiny. From unemployment compensation, to BadgerCare, to reproductive health rights, to water quality, to a good education - all of these things that make sense to provide as a society are being leveled. They've even made it harder to get a decent beer at the end of the day.

They slap the label of progress on these cuts as the money rolls into their coffers. We're told to thank them for their "strong leadership."

Enough is enough.

I still think back to this past February, when the halls of the capital building echoed with chants, songs, drums, and yes, bagpipes. Wisconsin came alive, in the dead of winter, and began the slow pendulum swing toward justice again. All over the country, people awoke from their slumber and started fighting back.

We have nothing to lose - the worst-case scenario is that we maintain this terrible status-quo for a little while longer. But every legislative session Scott Walker calls, Wisconsin loses that much more. It's time to make a stand.

In many ways over the months we've already shown our power. Here again, we've got a chance at defining the debate. This fall we decide whether Wisconsin will belong to the oligarchs, or to the people. So pick up a clipboard, canvass, volunteer at a recall office, bring in handwarmers, cook a crockpot full of food, SIGN A PETITION! - any way you can pitch in helps add to the overall effort. This is a groundswell that will not stop until we've reached election day with a new governor. Let's make history! Wisconsin will be ours!