Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Tradition of Activism

There are, to me, so many parallels with our city’s history, regarding the protests now against Emperor Walker’s Budget Repair Bill. There are so many images (like the ones above, expropriated from the UW Archives and the State Historical Society) which evoke memories of the days of the 60’s and early 70’s.

Damn, I can almost smell the teargas wafting over campus near the Humanities Building, carried on the breeze down Observatory Drive all the way to Carson Gulley Commons from the Dow Chemical protests in the fall of ’67.

I feel energized and invigorated! I’m too old and fat to trek up to the state house and give Walker’s minions a piece of my mind (not that much is left of it), but to me, it’s déjà vu all over again. The people are pissed and they’re mobilized.

The thought of Daddy Fitzgerald ordering his Troopers to track down those renegade politicians brings a smile to my face. (ring ring Hello? Daddy, this is Scott….there’s a call of the house out, so Jeff and I want you to go round up those damn dimmicrats, and whatever fool ‘publicans went on the lam with them…..OK, thanks, Daddy!!!)

And look who’s runnin’ for mayor…again!

These protests are bigger than anything I can recall from the 60’s or early 70’s. Back then, among other things, we were pissed because our government was lying to us about that damn Southeast Asian war. Now, we’re pissed because the government is lying to us about what’s really behind this assault on collective bargaining. This move has less to do with repairing the budget than Rush Limbaugh has to do with humility.

This is America. We make our own laws here. They’re not handed down to us by some religious prophet; neither are they the fiat of a crowned head nor the whim of a dictator. When we don’t like our laws, we break them. If enough people break them, we usually change them. It’s messy. It can get heated. Our founding document as a nation says we can tell the government exactly what we think about it, so long as violence is not involved, like what’s going on in my city once more.

I feel young again.


  1. I was there on Capitol Square, back in the Viet Nam-era '60s, during the administration of that old GOP warhorse Warren P. Knowles, doing my duty as a journalist. I caught some of the drifting teargas as those tall-booted State Police riot cops unnecessarily turned a peaceful protest into an angry mob.

    The similarities of the current protests to those bad old days are close enough to be eerie. Knowles had already alienated the younger end of the voting population by raising the beer-drinking age from 18 to 21 years. The move led angry Stevens Point college kids to trap him in the Whiting Hotel while they raised a hullabaloo and blocked traffic on U.S. Highway 10.

    Knowles, a contemporary of the estimable arch-conservative Madison Mayor William Dyke, was of the lockstep-Republican mindset, so with his warmth for that damnable war our blogger mentions, he set himself up as the hapless straw man for the rage that boiled over that day I was on hand to watch many of the display windows on State Street disintegrate.

    The war eventually ended, and those who prosecuted and defended it were proven wrong in the courts of public opinion and history.

    From my lofty aerie on the eastern edge of New York City, where the mayor is also embroiled in a fiscal donnybrook with public employees, it appears Governor Walker is intoxicated by the fumes of his own noxious ideology.

    He appears to believe it is worth reversing a proud piece of Wisconsin's history - the extension of collective bargaining rights to public employees - is worth the damage doing that will cause and the piddling few dollars, in the general scheme of things, he will be able to claim to have saved.

    If Walker signs a bill revoking the right to collective bargaining, how much will have been saved? Will the bill also abrogate contracts and instantly slash pay and benefits? If the state's fiscal needs are immediate, this scorched-earth approach to public policy will accomplish no good things.

    Our blogger is correct. Walker's assault on Wisconsin's public employees has little or nothing to do with correcting the state's spending errors.

    Rather, this is about power. It is a grab by adherents of a political class who have never liked unions or trusted public employees, and certainly have had no truck for the two combined.

    This is nothing less than a struggle for the soul of Wisconsin. Those who would roll back the calendar are, starkly, on the wrong side of history. They may yet prevail in this fight, but the days of any success they may wrest from the people will be numbered.

  2. Yes. As I recall it, (and I do, very well), the Liars-in-Charge of the Vietnam debacle were Democrats: Kennedy and Johnson.

    And the Liar who got us outta there was a Republican.

    Similarly, the Liars-in-Charge of Fairy-Dust Benefits and Salaries for State workers was Democrat Doyle (boosted by his community-organizer/thug-o-crat Obama's "stimulus".)

    Difference: Walker doesn't lie. There is no money.

  3. Tim.
    The demonstrations in 1969-70 were larger, but not by a lot, than what we see on the Square this week, though the crowds this week are the biggest in a long, long time. It was good to see a rejuvenation of the spirit and the flesh in the demonstrations. It is hard to compare, as most of the events I was at back in the day started with a big meeting - at the Field House - followed by a "march." So it was everyone all at once, then the split-offs on the way. Depending on your affinity group, of course, and if you were smart enough to pass through Library Mall and it's eye-cleansing fountain, on the way to reconnoitering in the woods along the Lakeshore Path, to the safety of Tripp. The crowd estimates this week at the Capitol were, I believe, totals for the day, not for all at one time. I could be wrong. There is less anonymity now, but I know many people were in place for the entire day. I don't think they are comparable, for that reason and for the relative safety of the current event, with lots of children about and, to top it off, the avuncular Mr. Ed.
    (It is not deja vu, which is the illusion of having already experienced something actually being experienced for the first time.)

    And really, "thug-o-crat?" The bar lowers, predictably.

  4. Ah, just back from the Square and I think the numbers are right up there with the olden days.

  5. Well, George, shall we call him "Presidential"?

    Because he is not that. He cannot restrain himself from encouraging thuggery, nor from making the dead-wrong call (Massachusetts), nor from voicing such as "If they bring a knife, we bring a gun."

    Not your fairy godmother, George.

    The lowered bar came as a result of "professionals" abandoning children--and their working parents--in order to fatten their wallets.

    You might wish to keep up to date with today's news instead of re-living the '60's. They're over with.

  6. I share the weariness of commenter George H. with those who prefer to vandalize, rather than contribute to a civil examination of current events.

    If gratuitous boorishness seems to be the only form of discourse available to the selfish political right, it is because the world is a frightening place that makes no sense to them unless everyone and everything in it is affixed with a political label. These people regard respect as weakness. Nuance confuses them.

    Unless you are aware of this deep-seated bent for fear and suspicion, it may seem irrational when a commenter introduces vulgar and wholly off-topic terms like "thug-o-crat" into an otherwise polite and thoughtful discussion, because it only broadcasts the brayer's lack of intellectual depth. Rhetorical graffiti is only his attempt to regain his footing.

    This antisocial resort to base behavior is as cheap (he's anonymous, after all) as it is dishonorable. And it requires no measure of originality. To tap into this fellow's estimable sources, you need only go here:

    If, in discussing events at the Wisconsin Capitol in recent days, he wants to borrow the relevant words of others to draw lessons from, I offer this sample:

    "For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind. They shall reap not merely as they have sown, but with an awful increase. They sowed folly and vanity, and shall reap, not merely emptiness and disappointment, but sudden, irresistible destruction."

    These are not my words, of course. I found them in a very old book, one I'm sure our troll has encountered. Hint: The same book describes Jesus as a community organizer.

  7. "For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind. They shall reap not merely as they have sown, but with an awful increase. They sowed folly and vanity, and shall reap, not merely emptiness and disappointment, but sudden, irresistible destruction."

    Absolutely perfect description of public employee unions, ain'a? (You could use Icarus as another one. Same lesson, different text.)

    JC didn't waste time with 'community organizing,' BTW; He had far more important things to worry about.

    You don't like "thug-o-crat" because it fails as a descriptor? Then come up with a better term for Trumka. Honesty counts, fellas.

    Oh, by the way, in the very same New Testament we find text about the "wise men" of the world--those who are so utterly innerlekshul that they earned the term "Intellectualoids."

    You could look it up.