Resistance Is Essential

Three weeks have gone by, and finally I’ve figured out what I think. I know, I know. I’m slow to process such things. There were many who would gladly have digested the experience for me, but I resisted. This was big. Huge even. I had to figure it out for myself, even if it took me, well, a few weeks.

First, I’m furious. Second, if I had it all to do over again, I would. Gladly. And I hope you would too.

Of course, I’m still furious at the Fitzwalker weasels for all the damage they’re doing to our beloved state. But I’m also furious that Obama tweeted his “support” in the eleventh hour, that the DNC’s idea of “support” was to come to Wisconsin to squeeze more money out of people who’d already given their hearts and souls and more money than they could afford to the recall effort, not to mention the money the Fitzwalkers have already stolen from them. They threw us under the goddamned bus.

The DNC treated the Wisconsin Recall like it was a marginal little regional dispute. The RNC, on the other hand, treated it like it was the front line of an epic battle, a warm-up for November. I wonder how the DNC would like it if we tweeted our support on November 5. (Don’t worry—I’ll hold my nose and vote for O, but only because the alternative is too horrible to contemplate.)

Three weeks of grieving. I keep thinking of all of you who worked so incredibly hard. Collecting signatures in the freezing cold. Organizing and canvassing and connecting and generally working your asses off. The result is so bitter, so hard to swallow.

Our state has been occupied by greedy corporate plunderers who believe the 1% are more worthy than the rest of us, who care nothing for our children’s future, for the unemployed, for students and teachers, for our health, for our state’s precious natural resources, for truth and transparency.

Not only is the result hard to accept. It’s hard to believe it’s legit. Regardless of whether there was outright fraud or just a gross billionaire-funded burial of the state in outsize lies and propaganda, or both, the system is rigged.

We the people have been subsumed by them the corporations.

In spite of the outcome, in spite of how hard it is to accept, it was the right thing to do. In fact, it’s still the right thing to do. We need not apologize for having attempted to rid Wisconsin of its weasel infestation. We didn’t fail. We were failed—by a rigged system and by the milquetoast pseudo support of Obama and the DNC.

That we didn’t succeed only means that resistance is more essential than ever. The weasels are ruthless, organized, and loaded with dirty billionaire dough. As Robert Kraig so rightly observed, “A movement is not something that can be defeated by one election. … It bears remembering that the modern conservative movement was established out of the ashes of a decisive electoral defeat, Barry Goldwater’s landslide presidential loss in 1964.”

A little voice in my head keeps saying, “Don’t mourn! Organize!” But I can’t tell you not to mourn, as I am doing my own mourning. But I will tell you to organize.

What does it take to organize? Nothing fancy or complicated. Just friends, community, and learning. By “friends,” I mean strong, lasting, deep friendships that you can count on when your back is up against the wall. Real community happens when every member counts, every member has a voice, every member is worthy of care and respect. A community cultivates cooperation, understanding, and confidence, in each other and in our leaders, even and especially when we don’t agree.

We have only just begun to build solidarity, and in spite of how often or loudly we chant otherwise, we don’t always know what democracy looks like. But we are learning. And we must continue to learn, to educate ourselves and each other. To give ourselves and each other the benefit of the doubt, and to forgive ourselves and each other when necessary.

We have to keep raising our voices, in defiance of the cacophony of the corporate mass media and the rabid right spin machine. We have to keep resisting, to keep singing. Thanks to a stalwart band of determined activists, the Solidarity Sing Along continues to be an important point of daily resistance, as well as an important point of community learning and organizing. We’re still putting the Fitzwalker weasels on notice: We’re still here. We’re not going away.

We can’t stop now. We’re only just getting started.

Many thanks to Leslie Amsterdam for use of her photo (top).

Wisconsin Recall: We Are What Democracy Looks Like

With less than a week to go in Wisconsin’s effort to collect signatures for the Walker recall, many of us are understandably turning our thoughts to who will run against him in the upcoming election.

Honestly, the first thought that has come to mind every time I’ve considered the question is Russ Feingold. But Feingold has said repeatedly that he will not run for public office in 2012. And although I know that many politicians say one thing and mean another, I think Russ’s resolve is quite firm in this respect. In a mid-December interview with Charles Benson of TMJ4 in Milwaukee, Feingold said he feels more a part of real change now than he did as a senator.

Here’s exactly what he said: “I feel more a part of real change now than I did even as a senator.” Think about that for a minute. What Feingold is saying is that real change comes not so much from elected officials as from the people. You know–€”us.

I’m not saying that it doesn’t matter who runs against Walker. It does. And we do need to talk about that. But before we get going full tilt on that, we need to remind ourselves of something even more important: where real transformation comes from.

Think about who you were, who we were, before Walker unleashed his draconian agenda on the people of Wisconsin last February.

I didn’t know the names of any state legislators but my own. I hardly ever spared a thought for state politics. Whenever there was an election, I did my best to catch up with the candidates and the issues. But it’s not really possible to do that in just a few days. I was woefully out of touch.

When I first learned about Walker’s devastating “budget repair” bill, I firmly expected that people would be angry and would complain for a while and then continue going about their business as though nothing had happened.

But then a miracle happened.

From seemingly out of nowhere, thousands of us—hundreds of thousands of us–€”gathered on the Capitol Square. Day. After. Day. We brought with us our signs, our outrage, our indignation, our sense of fairness, our determination, our sense of humor, our hats and mittens, and our friends, neighbors, kids, and grandparents. The people of Wisconsin woke up and rose up, and anyone who was there will never be the same again.

We have sloughed off our complacency and have our sights firmly set on transforming our state into the beacon of progressive values it has long been and will be again. No politician, no candidate for governor, can do for Wisconsin what we can. It won’t be enough to elect a progressive governor. It won’t be enough to flip the state senate and the assembly. No matter how hard we have worked collecting signatures, no matter how hard we work on the recall election, it won’t be enough if we don’t continue doing the work of democracy.

better in person

I have confidence in the transformation that has taken place in Wisconsin. Our sleeves are rolled up, and they will stay rolled up. We will remain vigilant on behalf of our neighbors and our children, our parents and grandparents. We will not stop insisting that the progressive values we prize most are not compromised. All this because we have learned a lesson we will never forget:

We are what democracy looks like.

The Transformative Power of Protest

This weekend HuffPost ran a piece by Steven van Zandt called “There Is Only One Issue in America,” that one issue being the financing of public elections. I can think of many important issues other than that one, and I am naturally skeptical of solutions that seem to come with “it’s so simple” stamped on them. Still, this one issue is unquestionably a biggie.

But here is what really raised my hackles:

Yes, we can demonstrate. We can march. We can write and sign petitions to our Representatives. We can occupy.

And we should because it’s healthy to vent, and we don’t feel so all alone. But the truth is, other than the value of venting, we’re wasting our time. It is naïve to expect political results from any of these activities.

The results of political demonstrations and marches are seldom immediately apparent. But they are legion. They are not merely “venting.” They are not just an opportunity to not “feel so all alone.” They are an opportunity to be not “so all alone.” What did the demonstrations in Madison last February and March accomplish? What has the Occupy movement accomplished?

They have galvanized people. They have forged connections and built a community of resistance. They have transformed us into a formidable force to be reckoned with that won’t back down and won’t settle for the status quo.

Of course, demonstrations and protests on their own aren’t enough. But they do indeed lead to some very desirable outcomes. They build awareness and stir us from our complacency. They change the direction and tone of public discourse. They cause us to identify and align ourselves with our communities in a new way. They provide us with the opportunity to teach our children what democracy looks like, to teach them who we are, while at the same time affirming that for ourselves. For some of us, representing in actions like these has been an all-out life-changing experience. We are new people, with new connections and new vision, new knowledge and understanding, new determination, and a new appreciation for the power that We The People actually do wield but far too often relinquish.

IMG_0933

In Wisconsin, the recall efforts of this summer and the current Walker recall efforts would not have happened without the demonstrations of February and March. Those who are working so hard right now to collect signatures wouldn’t have as much energy or focus had they not participated in last winter’s demonstrations. The visceral experience of not being alone in our outrage convinced many of us of how much we could accomplish together and how truly excellent our compadres are. The protests were a breath of fresh air to those who are being disenfranchised, ignored, and abandoned by the ruling elite. They were like a giant hug for every public school teacher in the state. They were an acknowledgment to the world that we are here, we are strong, and we are fighting back—together.

I’m sorry you missed out on all the fun, Steven. The demonstrations here in Madison and in Zucotti Park have been far from a waste of time. They haven’t had the direct effect on those in power that we envision—yet. But they most definitely have had a powerful effect on everyone who participated in them. We will never be the same again. The power brokers won’t let go of their stranglehold quickly or easily. But they are worried. About us. About what we’re going to do next. Because they know they cannot withstand the tsunami that is the unrelenting power of the people.

The Ed Schultz Town Hall, Barrymore Theater, Madison, Ground Zero in the Wisconsin Movement.

I joined 1,300 people in the Barrymore Theater last night. This crowd needed absolutely no assistance in warming up. While we waited for start, one audience member in the front in green face paint and a fright wig, stood up to lead the chant “This is what Democracy looks like”, while a cowbell waving member clanged along.

The crowd was noticeably over 30-years-old and mostly white–a demographic that fits with Madison, Wisconsin. However I feel qualified to state that the mix of cultures and styles brought to the Barrymore by the Ed Schultz crowd was uniquely non-elitist and non-cocktail swilling – as the downtown Madison crowd is characterized by the local GOP.

The format of the evening was billed as “town hall” with microphones at either side of he theater, and so I expected to hear hours of testimony. Instead, we heard a series of brief pointed speeches followed by a conversational exploration of the events that have transpired in Wisconsin since February 11 of 2011 when Scott Walker unveiled Wisconsin Act 10.

The crowd was stacked with those absolutely committed to jumping through all of the hoops required to get there – and thus  -the energy level they brought to the evening was red hot.

To guarantee entry into this event, hundreds waited in line first at noon, and then again later at 4:30PM, and following, they waited inside the theater. We listened first to John Nichols, Stu Levitan, Ruth Conniff, and a representative from PR Watch, and finally, we saw the man of the hour, Ed Schultz.

I didn’t count how many times Ed was thanked for Continue reading

Grab bag of solidarity, cooperatives, and the CLAP.

Madison housing cooperatives face threat. Mayor Dave?

A familiar symbol of the co-operative is that of the encircled Twin Pines. The symbol was adopted in 1922 by the Co-operative League of the USA, as the National Co-operative Business Association was then known, as a universal co-operative emblem.  The co-operative emblem displays Twin Pines encircled because the pine tree is an ancient symbol of life and the circle has the endless quality of eternity. Two pines are shown to emphasize the mutual nature of co-operation. The trees and the circle are dark green, which is the colour of chlorophyll, the life principle in nature. The colour within the circle is golden yellow, typifying the sun, the giver of light and lifeThis Tuesday night March 29 at 6:30pm Alder Marsha Rummel will introduce a measure to prevent city zoning from removing “co-op friendly” provisions in city code [the agenda].

April 5th we have a mayoral election. Madison is home to at least 11 cooperative housing sites some of which date back to 1968, I know we have more in the woodwork, and we have a locally beloved & nationally known food coop which recently expanded into Middleton. When Willy St Co-op wanted to raise $600,000 in 60 days—they raised it in 21. Madison and cooperatives are BFF.

Mayor Dave, although I don’t see evidence of it on Soglin’s Waxing America, at least one local labor/co-op blogger I spoke with believes Hizzoner’s been promoting co-ops for months. Candidate Soglin spoke at the Saturday rally for co-ops and workers at the Capitol.

So I’m scratching my head wondering if you’re letting Soglin have what amounts to a  gimme, or you’ve been informed you must slight the co-ops if you want to snuggle up with that Madison Isthmus biz blok ….    From this angle, I don’t see why you can’t have your cooperatively baked cake and eat it too.

“One Issue Doesn’t add up”  Kloppenburg endorsed by the Appleton Post-Crescent

Justice David Prosser has a past as a legislator. Now his days breaking Continue reading

100,000 Welcome the Dem14 Home in Madison, Wisconsin

I’m going to say 100,000. I see reports of “over 85,000” but as I saw no helicopters flying overhead, meaning we had no professional estimates, the evaluation by someone who’s been to every single historic Saturday labor rally in Madison, Wisconsin is good as any. I spent the day at Madison, Wisconsin’s largest rally yesterday. I wanted to do this piece when I got home, but the combination of walking on concrete, the exhileration of it all, and standing in the wind for nearly 7 hours did me in. As happens on every day I go to a rally, I fell asleep on the couch in the middle of trying to write or post photos. Now I have to get ready to play music for church. This will be what it will be. Assume more to come in the afternoon.

The Tractorcade

That wind!

Fifty tractors embarked from the Alliant Energy Center to the Isthmus, driving down John Nolen Drive Continue reading

Video & Photo: Fab 14 Democrat Senators of Wisconsin Moments Before Leaving for Illinois

This moving photo came from Senator Chris Larson. He is one of of the “Fab 14”: the Wisconsin Democratic Senators that left for Illinois rather than allow passage of Walker’s extreme power-grabbing bill. His tweet is below:

Chris Larson
United in Solidarity: this is the picture we took just before heading to Illinois. #wiunionhttp://yfrog.com/h6sm5lfjhttp://fb.me/T7EURQju
The last photo of the 14 Democrat Senators of Wisconsin taken before they left for Illinois.
A photo of the 14 Democrat Senators of Wisconsin taken just before they left for Illinois.

Senator Chris Larson’s article on the Budget Disrepair Bill is HERE (written 2/20).

Chris Larson was elected to his Milwaukee Senate seat November of 2010, unseating Jeff Plale. Continue reading

Scott Walker’s Nightmare: Explosion of Solidarity Weekend Events

Saturday March 5th, Noon to 4PM, Capitol King Street Entrance: Madison’s We are Wisconsin Rally

MUSICAL GUESTS:
MICHELLE SHOCKED and JON LANGFORD of the MEKONS and RYAN BINGHAM
SPEAKERS: Continue reading

Schedule of Madison-Area Events this Weekend from PRWatch.org

Look at all of these events springing up. Madison has marches, a concert, and forums tomorrow. And Sunday there is a day-long “People’s Legislature” forum.  I know there are many more – like my church gathering to march! It’s going to be a huge day tomorrow. Sleep well and remember to visit PRWatch.org for their further listings and live bloging.

Saturday, February 26:

*All day: Rally to Save the American Dream at the Capitol. Sponsored by Progressives United.

*9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Leafletting at the Kohl Center (WIAA Wrestling Tournament)

*10:30 a.m. – AFSCME Correctional Officers from Wisconsin and Illinois meet at the intersection of Mifflin St. & Wisconsin Ave. for walk to State Capitol

*10:30 a.m. – Protest at Koch office, 10 East Doty Street, Madison. Sponsored by US Uncut.

*11:00 a.m. – UWHC Radiology Department sign making and march from UW-Madison Memorial Union to State Capitol Continue reading

You Are Wisconsin: Rally to Save the American Dream, Saturday Feb. 26

An amazing 66 rallies and counting are part of tomorrow’s national “Rally to Save the American Dream” at noon in each time zone, with 40 supporting organizations signed on.

Please visit HERE to see where a rally is near you. When you go, wear red in solidarity with us Badgers of Wisconsin and put on your cheesehead. Short of a cheese hat, I’d suggest just bringing a block of delicious Wisconsin cheese for a snack!

The point of this is to show that people care about working families across the country. As MoveOn.Org says,
“..if we can get huge crowds across the nation, it’ll send a clear message that progressives are fired up and ready to go….This is an opening to call out the Republican game plan for what it is: a brazen effort to use a wrecked economy as an excuse to reward the rich and powerful while destroying 50 years of democratic progress.”

Let’s do this, people.

Image from Nickolas Nikolic of flickr.com
Students March in Wisconsin
Image from BlueRobot on flickr.com

 

Feb 24: Noon Vote, Firefighters, Koch Brothers, Amy Goodman

Forgive me for this is a post dashed off quickly. But I want to make sure people know about these events of note for today:

11:30-ish A much-rumored huge gathering of fire fighters will occur at Wisconsin’s capitol. I did call a local firehouse to be told only that it was fairly spontaneous and will be large. Firemen will met at Station Number 1 – 316 W. Dayton St. – 11:30am & following, march two short blocks to the Capitol.

12 Noon- The projected time of an Assembly vote on their version of the earlier Senate version of the Budget Repair [or “Disrepair”] Bill that was the cause of an earlier departure of our 14 Democrat Senators for Illinois.  You can watch events unfold live at Wisconsin Eye – a non-profit “CSPAN” for Wisconsin. Continue reading

Independent Egyptian Unions Express Solidarity with Wisconsin Workers

Please read this—

TRANSLATION: (The poster in the background shows photographs of some of the recent young victims of the Mubarak government. The writing says they are among the martyrs of the 25 January Revolution.)

KAMAL ABBAS: “I am speaking to you from a place very close to Tahrir Square in Cairo, “Liberation Square”, which was the heart of the Revolution in Egypt. This is the place were many of our youth paid with their lives and blood in the struggle for our just rights.

From this place, I want you to know that we stand with you as you stood with us.

I want you to know that no power can challenge the will of the people when they believe in their rights. When they raise their voices loud and clear and struggle against exploitation. Continue reading

Where there is Andrew Breitbart, there are lies.

Not pigpen. I recall that Charles Shultz is a conservative. Instead, I present a dirty pig.

Some people leave a wake of garbage in their path. Reminds me of Pigpen from Charlie Brown .

Andrew Breitbart spoke at Madison, Wisconsin yesterday to approximately 3,500 Tea Party and Pro-Walker people. They were there to do their darndest to match the numbers of Progressives, workers, and students that have rallied since last week February 14 against Scott Walker’s union-busting “Budget Repair Bill”.

Now there are rumors left behind to dispel. Picking up garbage is something we thought we’d have to do after receiving 60,000 visitors. But this?: A doctored video Continue reading

I woke up ready for this.

Just a quick note-

A twitter friend has offered high speed access just off the square of the Capitol. I’m hauling a lot of gear over and hope to at minimum do audio from there.  If I find some tech-savvy youth-maybe some video too. You’ll get updates on this via facebook/twitter/here.

At 5pm last night there was a big ruckus in the Assembly. Repubs. said the vote was at 5. Showed up early. Voted by voice. Dems ran in at 5 yelling to stop the vote. Continue reading