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!