Friday, February 25, 2011

At a loss for what to say

Dear Readers,

Whoever you might be out there, whether you know me personally or not, I hope you can understand my taking this moment to stand up on a soapbox, and however incoherently (it's 2am) state my objections, my disappointment, my sadness about the state of democracy and government in my state, and in my country.

I am an American. At times that has been a cause for shame. I've never been much of a patriot, but when we elected Barack Obama, our first African American President, I was proud. For the first time in a long time, I was proud to be an American.

When the legitimacy of democracy, it's fairness, it's possible corruption is questioned in countries other than the US, I might have shook my head in sadness, but if I'm honest with myself, and with you, I never really questioned those reports. I thought to myself, "That's just the way it is." I didn't ever think it would ever come to the same sad status quo in Wisconsin, USA.

We have had our moments of shame. One that stands out is in the wake of G.W. Bush's re-election, and the alleged fraud of voting machines. Today was another one of those moments.

I just watched the Speaker Pro Tem of the Wisconsin State Assembly call a vote, without a motion to end the debate, without due process, call a vote, which was mostly shouted, and not even all those present in the chamber got a chance to register their vote. It was approximately 1:10am, and things had already become heated between the two sides.

Perhaps there was no doubt in anyones mind that the bill would pass. Even with a few dissenting republicans, which there were, it was going to pass anyway. But the vote called in the state assembly, following after the comments of one of the Democrats, with just seconds to respond, and both sides shouting, there was a cacaphony of yeas and nays, and then the roll was closed. Only 68 out of 99 voted. As soon as the words were out of their mouths the Republicans ran out of the room, as the Democrats shouted, "SHAME! SHAME! SHAME!".

The vote went 51 to 17, and the yeas had it. Of the 17 that voted against, four were Republicans. Twenty-five Democrats were not able to register their vote before the vote was closed. Republicans Kaufert, Nerison, Spanbauer, and Tranel should be thanked for not voting with the party line. Even that gives me some small faith in humanity.

On the other hand, the actions of the Republican speaker, who called the vote without warning, without formal roll call, without a motion to end the debate, disgust me. I'm at a loss for what to say.

I wish I could say I've never been so disappointed, but it's not true. I was more disappointed when this country somehow managed to re-elect G.W. Bush, for a second go-round. I wanted to move to Canada.

But this is closer to home. With Bush, it was people someplace else, somewhere hundreds of miles away. This is HERE, in my home, and it's personal. For me it's served a dual purpose. It's highlighted the depth and width of the huge chasm of differences between my beliefs and convictions, and people on the other side. It's also had the amazing power to create unity, and solidarity, with people I didn't know before, and amongst the friends I already had, within my department in the university.

It's not about self-interest, or personal gain. It's about doing what is right, and fighting against the corporations and institutions and lawmakers that want to take from poor and give to the rich, that want to disenfranchise us, that want to take away our voice.

We are now unified under a common cause, and the more ridiculous and un-democratic the behavior of those in power, the more angry, but also more unified we're bound to get.

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