Before I don my asbestos underwear and jump into the fire, understand that anyone paying attention can see some ominous trends once you peek behind the curtain. Mountains of assets are being sucked up by the unfathomably wealthy, too few Americans grasp the role of government, and we're in real danger of succumbing to a plutocracy.
Given the true wealth of the United States--our water, our minerals, our trees, our climate, and our Constitution--we can turn things around. And we will. What's happening in Madison, though, is a symptom, not the cure.
How many folks in your town have ever been to a town council meeting? A board of education hearing? Or (yawn, who has time) a session of the zoning board? How many in your town vote in the Presidential election, but fail to vote in the mayoral one?
Democracy is noisy and messy and frightfully ineffective at times--the protests in Madison got that part down--but it also depends on process and work and citizenship.
Getting stoked at a rally can be exhilarating and can send a powerful message. Our Bill of Rights "guarantee" our right to assembly (though the recent expansion of Free Speech Zones makes a mockery of this). Voting is far less exciting, but if everyone with stake in it took the time to vote in their community's best interests, Wisconsin would not be in this mess. (No, it's not like Egypt, folks--you really need to do a little more probing....)
Keep the rally going! Keep fighting the good fight! Then, however it all turns out, continue to flex your fledgling wings at your town halls, in your local coffee shops, in your local papers.
On fleeing legislators:
Legislators scurrying out of state makes for entertaining news, and there may be merit in buying time for a vote as historic as the one about to take place, but it's only temporary, and again reflects a symptom, not a cure. With government comes duty. A democratic republic can really suck at times, but so long as the people participate knowledgeably, it beats any other form of rule hands down.
A functioning republic depends on an educated citizenry. Teachers matter because education matters. Closing schools through a job action to protest even a bill as vile as the one proposed sends a very mixed message. I understand the anger. I'm
No doubt some teachers believe that their actions serve a greater purpose in the long run, and no doubt many are willingly giving up their pay for the days missed. Still, what we do matters, every single day. We have a public duty. Closing schools rarely helps our cause.
Unions matter, more than most of us not involved in the plutonomy realize. They only matter, though, if they act as unions, for the general good of everyone in the union.
The past few years we have seen unions create two-tiered memberships. Here in Jersey, our local teacher unions, in conjunction with school boards, have created some pay scales that result in the top earning more than twice as much as the bottom, for essentially performing the same work. Until unions start acting as true unions, protecting every member's interests, their status will continue to fall.
The events in Wisconsin may mark the beginning of public awareness, a fresh look at the marvelous possibilities we have in a land filled with grace, but only if we start to do the work that needs to be done.
If you're going to abandon, even temporarily, your duties as a legislator or as a teacher, to take on greater duties as a citizen, you had better be willing to work hard, very hard, to make this American experiment work.
Otherwise you're part of the problem.
Asbestos fire suit photo originally from Life.