Monday, March 21, 2011

An Open Letter to a Scott Walker Supporter

Go ahead - call my dad a F*@#ING COMMIE! 
Scream your vulgarities in dad's face, when he is peaceably assembling, and speaking, along with other concerned citizens, seeking redress from government grievances.  

You have every right as an American to get right up in his face and scream your obvious distaste of him.
But I have to let you know, that based on your ranting - and a few other anti-social behaviors - that it appears to me that you are lacking in a number of traits essential for the functioning of a free and civilized society.  

Settle down.  I am not asking you to give up your first amendment rights.  I am going to ask you, however, in an attempt to find a peaceful solution to our uncivil discourse, to please stretch yourself as an individual, and as a citizen, and for the sake of our state, and our country - try the following. 
Imagine that the man you are screaming at is your father.
YOUR father.  Your dad.  A product of the “Greatest Generation”, one of the many in this country who grew up poor in the Depression, served in World War II, came home, went to college on the GI bill, married, started a family, and worked hard to build this country.
Your dad.  He believed that he could never finish repaying his country for its many gifts; especially the numerous liberties enumerated in its Constitution, liberties which he had already volunteered to defend against the forces of fascism, joining the Army barely past his eighteenth birthday. 

But to dad, military service in “The Big One” was nothing to gloat about.  Nor did he feel that it completed the payment of his debt to America.  No, his time in the Army Airborne had simply been part of his duty as an American. 
Dad’s belief in service to his country didn't start and end with  the mlitary.  It was deeply rooted in the tenets of his faith, and the lesson from Matthew “that whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
And in your dad’s day, ideals were not only a part of religion.  There existed the idea that good works were not only possible, but were a requirement of those who chose a career in the professions. 

So with his faith, and the ideals of professional service as a foundation, he chose the law as a path to serve his fellow man (your dad said fellow man – not person).  GI Bill exhausted, he put himself through law school, working at a less than glamorous factory job at Allis-Chalmers.  And yes, it was a union job, as were the jobs of his father, his uncles, and his future wife and father in-law.
Your dad graduated near the top of his law school class, and went to work for the federal government, knowingly forsaking a private sector income that was many times more lucrative than his government pay.  

Ironically, your F*@#ING COMMIE dad’s legal career began with the investigation and removal of communist sympathizers from the Atomic Energy Agency in the 1950’s.  From my perspective, it’s hard for me to judge if your dad did the right thing in the Red Scare era.  Today, it would be easy to label him a communist “witch hunter”, but I’m guessing, like most patriots of his era, he was sincerely attempting to make the world safe for democracy.
But you, the bellicose berator of anyone who argues a point different from your own, you unflinchingly describe your dad, a Cold War Warrior, who sent two sons to Viet Nam, as a “F*@#ING COMMUNIST!!!
After a decade in federal government, your dad moved into a democratically elected position in a democratically elected city government, and spent many years there.  He jetted out to New York on occasion to spend time with old money Wall Street bankers and lawyers (yes, he dealt with CAPITALISTS) on bonding issues, in order to fund the necessary infrastructure that his thriving city required.  These community projects, approved via a democratic process, provided libraries, fire stations, a city hall, and a community hospital for this democratic society. 
And remember this, your dad, the former union factory worker, who was endorsed by the UAW and the AFL-CIO when he ran for office, was the lead negotiator for the City – yes, HE WAS THE MAN - in contentious labor struggles with municipal employees and teachers.   

But your dad, in his role in “management” did not disparage, or vilify city employees or teachers, like you are doing in today’s debate, because your dad understood the essential nature of the services that these workers provided for your family, and your community. 

And at a deeper level, and like a more prominent leader of that era, your dad’s opinion of government employees, and people in general, was based on “the content of their character,” a character which you misrepresent as F*@#ING VIOLENT COMMUNISTS.
When I see an angry person hurl those, and other vulgar and demeaning comments at your father, while your father practices the very liberties which he personally defended against Adolf Hitler’s Wehrmacht, I have to wonder if the perpetrator was not as fortunate as you and I, and did not have compelling examples of democracy in action, in his life. 
But I don’t know how he could not have, because every American, every one of us, is surrounded by people like your dad and mine.  Sure, the details of their stories differ from our fathers, but the examples are there. 

They have to be.  These people must exist, or we, the United States of America could not exist as a free and democratic society.  We don't live alone, John Wayne on a horse, in some mythic John Ford landscape, we live and thrive, together, as a community.       
I ask you, please, consider the lessons of your father, as I too, pledge to recall, and put the lessons of mine into action, so that we, together, may conduct a civil discourse, free from the unnecessary and damaging slander that has surrounded our latest differences at the Capitol. 
Perhaps, together we can then chart a course for the future of our democracy – a course based on the shared liberties which your father and mine made so many sacrifices – so that you and I might enjoy them – before we pass them along to our children.   

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Why We Write

From Plato to Payne, Martin Luther to Martin Luther King, Jr., the desire to communicate ones ideals, grievances, dreams, and aspirations, has motivated many authors to create written acts of defiance that have certainly not always been in their immediate selfish interest.

Martin Luther didn't have remuneration in mind when he posted his 95 Theses in Wittenberg.  Plato wasn't seeking a multi-book deal with movie rights when he penned The Republic, and Payne certainly didn't write Common Sense for money, hiding his identity as Anonymous, in order to avoid King George's noose. 

And Letters From a Birmingham Jail?   The Reverend King's jail house letter, a response to white clergy, who believed that King's movement should seek its social justice goals via the courts, and not on the streets, is a masterpiece in justification for civil disobedience against unjust laws.   What the letter is not, is a pablum for those who would have elevated him if only he would preach moderation in the pursuit of basic human rights.

A famous statement in King's letter, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere" has been ringing true in 2011 for we fans of democracy, in America, and across the globe, as we have witnessed the struggle for freedom in Tunisia, Egypt, and across the Middle East.  In the Heartland of America, where I live, I can almost hear the "Star Spangled Banner", and feel the rush of pride as our most treasured export, democracy, takes hold in places that have no record of such an ideology.

But where do we find evidence of that American pride in representative government, when an entire state's citizenry is banished from their public cathedral of democracy, its Capitol, in contravention of state statutes, State and US Constitutions, and Court orders, as has happened in my own state?  

Where are the upraised voices of our indignant national leaders, on both sides of the aisle, Senators and US Representatives, Cabinet members, Presidents, past and current?  Where are the national media, who, with a few exceptions, have focused on the demonstrations' visual entertainment value, but have neglected to mention the dissolution of the first amendment rights of: speech, press, assembly, and petition for the redress of grievances.

I think, as a people, in the Midwest, we are coming to better understand our national leaders.  When we have searched for leaders among our elected national officials, it is as if we have played the  roles of the confused characters in Waiting For Godot, thinking that we will be saved by someone that does not even exist. 

Regardless of our national leaders' professions of love for our country, in spite of the oaths that they have taken to uphold and protect the Constitution, these "leaders" have decided, with cold, political calculus, that domestic subversion of the rights of the citizens, an injustice, not just "anywhere", but an injustice right here, in the middle of the UNITED STATES of AMERICA, is a tolerable condition.   

Unfortunately, these national "leaders" have not learned the lesson of King, for they do not view injustice in Madison, in Lansing, or in Jefferson City, as a threat to justice everywhere.

Shut down the Capitol in Wisconsin?  That's alright.  Abolish cities and school boards in their entirety in Michigan?   Not a problem.   Repeal child labor laws in Missouri?  Kids don't vote - who cares?

WE CARE!  In Wisconsin and through out the Midwest, we are turning Walt Kelly's dictum in Pogo, that "we have met the enemy, and he is us", on its head.  Instead, it is, we have met our leaders, and they are us.

We're finding a leader in Senator Jon Erpenbach, one of the Fab 14, the Democratic Wisconsin State Senators who decamped to the Land of Lincoln, so that the electorate could take the time to understand, and gag, over the draconion Republican budget.  Senator Erpenbach stayed in touch with his, and other constituents, through his Erpenbach to the People Video Series on Facebook. 

We're finding leaders in Tony Schultz, a third-generation family dairy farmer, whose passionate speech, at the 100,000 person March 12 rally, the largest Wisconsin Capitol event to date, had people begging him to run for Governor, in a recall election that will happen in 2012.  And for those citizens who missed the oratorical fireworks, they can see it on You Tube.  

Mr. Schultz, from a small commnity, named Athens, reminds us of Jefferson's vision,  ". . . whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government; that, whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them right."

And yes, we are finding our leaders on the internet.  Michael Brown, a single dad from Appleton, whose A United Wisconsin to recall Scott Walker was founded just weeks ago, has spearheaded the Governor's recall, working sixteen hour days, with no pay, because he loves his state, and is concerned for the future of his son.  As of today, Mr. Brown's website, has gathered over 164,000 pledges for recall.

Wisconsin is finding new leaders daily, at rallies, at phone banks like those for the election of an independent Justice for the Wisconsin Supreme Court, JoAnne Kloppenberg,, and at petition drives for the recall of the Republican 8 Wisconsin State Senators,

These new leaders, like our famous agricultural wealth, are growing right here in the fertile soil of Wisconsin democracy.  The people have decided that they do not have time to wait for outsiders, so they have taken action.

And like many others, I feel it is time for me to take action, to do something beside walking around the Capitol, carrying a sign - and believe me, I do not diminish that first amendment exercise in the least.  But I need to do more.  So I have chosen to write. 

Why do I write?  It's not because I love technology.  This, today, is my first blog. 

I write because, like my fellow citizens, I too am no longer waiting.  I have an unquenchable want, a need, to repay those who have sacrificed so much, so that my children, your children, all of us - together, can pursue our dreams, with the protection of our constitutionally guaranteed rights.

I write, not in aspiration to join the exalted ranks of the above mentioned authors, those great minds of the ages.  I write, because I aspire to something else.  I feel compelled, as a citizen, of both the United States, and of the great State of Wisconsin, to shine whatever little light that I can into the dark recesses of our current government, and to show positive examples of people in the pursuit of the abolition of injustice anywhere, and the promotion of justice - and democracy - everywhere.