Day four of what I and a few others have been colorfully referring to as the Battle for Wisconsin has come and gone, and the sun is rising on yet another day of mass action in Madison.
As I write this, I'm coming down from what amounts to nearly three days straight of being on my feet, running around like a maniac through snow, slush, water, drizzle, discarded signs and a whole great mess of motivated, passionate people.
My legs are stiff, my back is sore, and my brain is beginning to feel a bit like what the snow melting in the gutters looks like -- but I couldn't be more thrilled. The actions of tens of thousands of my fellow Wisconsinites over the last several days couldn't illustrate more perfectly why I'm so proud of my adopted state, and why I'm thankful I decided (pretty much on a whim) to move here 10 years ago.
The nation is watching what we do here now -- and that's huge, folks, no doubt about it -- but what's most important is that these protests have done as much, if not more, to bring the regular, diverse people of Wisconsin together than even, dare I say, the Packers' winning the Super Bowl.
It may well have re-energized the union and labor movement in Wisconsin for years to come, and it's definitely woken a lot of us up to the serious shenanigans being committed by certain of our elected representatives who've allowed themselves to become the pawns of wealthy, private interests.
Because, as the teachers and firefighters and snowplow drivers have been saying all along, this isn't about the money -- they're all willing to pay their fair share and do what needs to be done to benefit the state as a whole (that's why they went into public service in the first place) -- this is about the fundamental rights of everyday Americans.
What Gov. Scott Walker and his Republican cohorts in the Legislature are instigating is class war in the truest sense. They're doing all they can to dupe private sector workers into thinking that public sector workers are the enemy, to feed everyone the proverbial shit sandwich while telling us just to be grateful they didn't spit in it.
The budget "crisis" is a bogeyman conjured by Walker to give him an excuse to make the union busting wet dreams of him and his friends a reality.
This isn't a matter of partisan politics, though, or left versus right -- this is about a handful of well-positioned, well-financed individuals and corporations trying to get more for their own, all the while distracting the rest of us by trying to pit us against one another.
Crushed into the capitol rotunda earlier today I watched as a parade of firefighters and cops, all exempt from Walker's union busting plan, marched in solidarity through the cheering throngs. I'm not sure I've ever heard a cacophony quite as loud and body-shaking as the hero's welcome they received (and that's saying something, since I'm a drummer).
I've seen young children and the very elderly, black and white, Spanish and English speaking, Democrat and yes! Republican, punker and button-up square, nerd and geek, and even a sizeable contingent of canines, all walking together around the capitol in solidarity.
That's what it's all about.
Finally, too, the Senate Democrats looked out their windows and made a decision based on what they saw, leaving the state entirely so as to even just slow down the fast-tracked process of the budget bill. I applaud them for it. They're paying attention, which is a whole lot more than can be said for our persistently belligerent, stubborn governor.
I'd be willing to bet that the protests would stop and real progress would be made on addressing the state budget if Walker would simply remove the provision on collective bargaining entirely. Quite frankly, many of the other, equally onerous provisions in the bill may have gone entirely unnoticed (or at least not inspired such massive outrage) had the union busting been left out. None of that matters now, of course, since Walker's dug in deep, surely egged on by an out-of-touch, out-of-line inner circle that just does not care about the damage being done to the people of Wisconsin. Just as long as it means more money in their pockets.
I am moved and inspired by the tireless protestors who show up day in and day out, even camping overnight in the capitol itself, to see that justice is done.
It's going to take a lot more work, though, and a lot more time to see not just Wisconsin, but the entire country turned back in a better, more progressive direction. We've got years of neo-con indoctrination and vilification to work against. It starts with contacting your representatives to let them know how you feel and what you think ought to be done. It continues by electing people who will better represent the working classes and stand up against those who would do them wrong. It continues by all of us doing the day to day work of supporting one another, of striving to make our communities healthier places for everyone, and of always remaining vigilant (that means at least voting in every election, damn it!).
Don't let the opposition frame the debate or spread falsehoods. The protests have been peaceful peaceful and will remain so, even if counter-demonstrators show up (Right? Right!). More importantly, keep hammering home that this is about rights, not money. Wisconsin won't sit idly by while 50-plus years of good labor law gets tossed out with the bath water. Hopefully, neither will the country.