Monday, July 25, 2011

State Assaults Citizen for Holding Heart Balloon

Note:  I was at the Capitol during today’s attack, and tweeted about it for much of the afternoon.  The events are well summarized on @bluecheddar1 and were witnessed by @batmanWI.  See Lance J Gosnell on Facebook and Matthew Schauenburg for more eyewitness reports  Also read @rebeccakemble at  for excellent reporting.

In this blog, I need to ask a question about today’s attack. 

What does it take, for a state, to reach a point where a citizen is attacked by that state’s government, for holding a heart balloon?

I have pondered that question ever since this afternoon’s assault of local activist Leslie Amsterdam, by DOA Assistant Director of Facilities, Ron Blair, at the Wisconsin Capitol.   Was it the citizen’s “fault” for being attacked?  What was Leslie doing when Blair decided to pull a knife? 

Leslie was standing outside of the Wisconsin Supreme Court chambers, around 1:00pm, with a heart balloon, ready to have her picture taken.  That’s it. There’s no deep, dark secret protest story involved.  Just an activist and her heart balloon – a symbol of love.

Leslie loves heart balloons.  Just last week, on YouTube, a post, “Heart Balloon Chase at WI State Capitol - 07-20-11” showed her as she delivered balloons, ultimately, to State Assembly representative, Tamara Grigsby.  One of Grigsby’s aides said the balloon still resides in Grigsby’s office.  On that video, a Capitol Police officer follows Leslie.  Watch the video.

Leslie likes hearts in general.  She is often seen wearing a t-shirt, of her own design, a red heart, enveloping the state of Wisconsin, both split down the middle. 

So what, or who, is the cause of that split in Wisconsin?  Years ago I had a boss who had a colorful saying for everything.  If one of our business units was underperforming, he’d say, “If the fish stinks, the head is rotten.” 

Unfortunately, for Wisconsin, and Leslie Amsterdam, our “head” is Scott Walker. 

And what of Ron Blair – the attacker?  He works for DOA head, Mike Huebsch, the loyalist of all loyalists to our stinking fish head of a Governor.  Today’s attack is a violent demonstration of the mentality of this corrupt administration, and illustrates their priorities, just as, if not more clearly, than any of their budget proposals.

Simply, Scott Walker and his allies, Mike Huebsch, the Fitzgeralds - and their GOP legislature, care more about property than any individual citizen of this state. 

Let me say it one more time.  Scott Walker, and his allies, cares more about property than people.  If this is false, why then do we have a state employee attacking a citizen for holding a heart balloon?    

Read the media reports to come.  They’ll talk about balloons causing extensive damage to the Capitol.  I’m not going to waste my time refuting another propaganda piece about $7.5 million dollars of damage to marble, granite, and grass; we’ve been through it before.  We know where these bogus damage reports originate – with Walker, and his buddy, Mike Huebsch.  

Walker, and his libertarian ideology, has created this dystopic environment, where a citizen, standing in the most hallowed halls of our democracy, is no longer safe from the violent actions of the government which Walker heads. 

Today’s attack is not only an attack on a woman, a mother, a citizen - as horrific as that is – it is an attack on democracy itself. 

If you disagree with that statement, picture yourself, or a friend, with a favorite item, or symbol - holding it, as a photo is taken of you in the State Capitol.  Perhaps it’s an American, or Gadsden flag.  How about a Bible, or other sacred text?  What would you say – and more importantly – what would you do, after your friend had been attacked by an agent of the state, simply for holding that cherished item in the People’s house? 

I know what my friends and I will do. 

In the words of a Solidarity Sing Along tune – “Scotty we’re coming for you!”

Friday, July 22, 2011

On Heart Balloons, Inflatable Prossers, and other Immature Political Antics

“Field of Dreams”. 

This fairly fluffy piece of film making is now over twenty years old, but tonight it popped into my head as I was engaged, no surprise, in yet another Facebook thread about Wisconsin politics.  

One particular comment spurred me to ponder the criticisms of those people in the anti-Walker movement who decry any activity which does not rise to their definition of serious political activity. 

The particular comment, an example of many that I’ve read, or heard firsthand, railed against the harm that these “immature” activities cause the movement.  In general, the critics state that our allies will be upset and abandon us, our potential fence-sitting supporters will avoid us, and our opponents will gain additional talking points to use against us. 

And for some reason I thought of Ray Kinsella, the main character in “Field of Dreams”, who took a chance and built a baseball field in the middle of his family’s cash crop.  But, just as quickly, my thoughts darted from the movie’s hero to the filmgoer observing the hero. 

What did the movie going public make of this Iowa farmer’s construction project as life mission? 

How did you react to Ray when he carved his spiritually inspired ball field out of valuable farmland?   Did you think, that’s a colossal waste – he should keep it in corn?  Or did you cheer him on in his journey to turn his dream into reality – regardless of the financial and public pressures that should have halted his quixotic quest? 

If you’re like most viewers, I would bet that you cheered for him.  And in the end, what did your positive thought for Ray, and all that construction work and decimation of cropland lead to? 

A lousy game of catch with his dad. 

That’s it?  Tossing a ball around after dinner?  That’s not very practical.  What a precious waste of time.  Where’s the ROI - Return on Investment?  Think of the things he could, or should, have done.

Ray could have conferred with University of Iowa agriculture experts to gather information about how to increase his crop yields while better managing his farm’s thin layer of productive soil.  He could have become more active in his local Ag co-op, and joined their phone and letter writing campaigns to their Congressional representatives, seeking legislation for stronger price supports for corn.  And he could have, and definitely should have, avoided making a spectacle of himself in the community.

How could Ray ever expect to gain any allies from his conservative neighbors when he decided to go organic, refused to plant genetically modified seed, and started a “grow and eat local” movement, which also included his favorite “side project” – the promotion of hemp goods. 

Again, he gave up these productive activities, for what? 

To manually catapult a leather-covered spheroid to his deceased father’s leather-gloved hand, in order to receive the same sphere, in return, to his own hand.  And to repeat this activity, ad nauseum, and most likely in silence.  What a complete, and even reckless, waste of time.

Play – the act of: in public, with our friends, or with our brothers and sisters in the struggle for justice, our critics have said - should be avoided at all costs.

Work - movement policies and procedures:  You shall follow the prescribed methods for participating in said movement - or you shall be publicly reprimanded and potentially dismissed for your breach of the code of conduct.

Isn’t that authoritarian vision of labor one of the things we are fighting against?

I say – play on!

Play allows us to develop alternatives to violence and despair; it helps us learn perseverance and gain optimism.

 Stuart Brown, MD.  American psychiatrist