Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task. ~William James

Thursday, February 24, 2011

This (Too) is What Democracy Looks Like

The revolution is seriously messing with my to do list. 

In the last six days, I have been to the capitol twice, and spent two late afternoons in our city's downtown, carrying signs and yelling with others who share my outrage at our Governor's far-reaching proposals supposedly aimed at dealing with a budget "crisis" that some have called "ginned up."  As the world watches, and momentum builds, many of us living at this epicenter of would-be Republican world-changing are experiencing our own "new normal."  It looks like this.

Wake to an alarm set an hour or two earlier than usual.  Dress in layers, to accommodate indoor and outdoor protest venues, in the alternating blizzard and thaw conditions of late February in Wisconsin.  Drink enough coffee to wake up, but not so much that nature will call inconveniently while you are manning the barricades.  Travel light.  In my case, this has meant turning my many-pocketed down coat into a Captain Kangaroo-style purse alternative.  Cell phone.  Driver's License (in case of arrest).  Credit card (in case of starvation).  Cough drops, to sooth the chanted-out throat.  A small book fits in one outside pocket.  I have not yet had time to read it.

To sign, or not to sign?  Using mittened hands to defend a placard from the wind and constant jostling can compromise circulation.  If you need a sign, and cannot afford (the time to make) one, a sign will be provided for you, courtesy of the many groups supplying ready-made slogans, or those who have abandoned theirs in order to enter the capitol, where signs on sticks are prohibited.  But if you do make your own, you want it to be worthy of the competition.  Sign witticism is a spinoff art form of these "days of (out)rage."

On some days, you determine that you can't be spared from your appointed rounds, and they start the revolution without you.  You might as well be there.  You steal whatever time you can manage to indulge your new obsession, scrounging scraps of news from Facebook, Twitter, political sites, email, TV video feeds, blogs and online magazines and newspapers.  You pass on what you learn, posting "scoops," "breaking news," useful information, and the occasional opinion or snarky remark.  Your eyes glaze over, and your head hurts.  You fall asleep watching the interminable assembly debates on amendments, substantive and otherwise, conjured by Democrats desperate to halt the process and to salvage what they can from the expected eventual outcome.

You wake with a tension headache, to add to your protest-related maladies--aching joints from uninterrupted standing, hoarseness, etc.  You cram your former life into the spaces between rallies, abbreviating workouts, grabbing meals on the run, turning a blind eye to the domestic disorder resulting from neglect.  You field Facebook messages like this one:  
Share! We'd like brief emails NOW from WI residents, especially
non-Madison residents, who've made the trek to the Capitol to protest
this bill. Submit your brief message tonight sharing what you'd like
Assembly Republicans to hear & know as they prepare to vote on this
...bill. Your message might be read outloud from the Assembly floor!See More
or this one:
If you've been in the Capitol this week...
...You Should be Heard!   Assembly Democrats have been fighting around the clock to defeat the Governor's budget "repair" bill. Since Gov. Walker & legislative Republicans have shut down the public's opportunity to be heard on this unpcredented bill, Rep....
or this one:
[friend's name] knows its really hard - but please, if you can, keep going to madison and get your friends or family or someone to go too! We need to replenish those intrepid protestors!!!
[all spelling/typing original to Facebook!]
You burn through hours signing online petitions, calling and emailing legislators, and making contributions to the "Fab 14"--whose paychecks are being withheld, whose homes are being dogged by state troopers, and whose personal and campaign resources must be dwindling as they enter week two of their enforced "vacation" in balmy northern Illinois (where one legislator today suggested they should be subject to Illinois state income tax while sojourning in the Land of Lincoln.  The state nicknamed after our illustrious 16th president who, as everyone surely knows by now, once leapt from the window of his 19th century Illinois statehouse to avoid a vote.)  You meet with church members to craft a statement against the proposed legislation.  You are assigned to draft a statement for your employing social justice organization.
Much is happening, in this new normal state, but not much is getting done.  Both sides are dug in, it would seem, for the long haul.  I imagine we'll get better at this as we go.
This weekend, my husband and I plan to celebrate our anniversary at a sleepover in the capitol.  New, certainly.  Normal?  Hardly. 

No comments:

Post a Comment