Lesson in democracy


Took the kids to Madison on Saturday to stand in support of their teachers and the other Wisconsinites that will be affected by the governor’s recent proposal to take away the right to bargain.

It was a pretty amazing event.  The kids were great in the car, we listened to a book the whole way there, found parking right away because we got there pretty early, and made our signs in the parking lot.  Here’s what the kids chose to do.    It wasn’t as creative as some of the amazing signs out there, but it was certainly heartfelt!

Stand with our teacherWe parked on the E. Washington side of the Capitol and started to walk around to the State St. side, but immediately got waylaid by some organizers, who wanted the kids to stand behind a teabagger who was being interviewed by CNN.  So they did, and were right in front (though I was told by someone who found the footage that they mostly obscured by the interviewee and you could really only see a bit of their sign).

So then we walked along to join the rest of the 40,000+ people that were there, and amazingly managed to find my parents and Mary Ann right away, my mom called my phone to figure out where we were and then I realized I was fifteen feet away, looking right at her.  I kept saying, “mom, we’re right here, I see you, hang up,” but in a crowd that big it takes a moment for that kind of randomness to register.   So we had five adults and two kids, which wound up being a perfect ratio in a crowd that big.  We listened to the rally outside for a while and then the kids wanted to go inside to warm up.

It was a little easier to hear and participate inside the Capitol rotunda, we went up to the second floor and got a great view of the crowds.  It was a really lovely environment, where people were very positive and friendly.  At many occasions on Friday, people reminded us that we were keeping it peaceful (the teabaggers were rallying there at noon and there were some concerns about conflict, though by all accounts those concerns were pretty unfounded).  In fact, a guy just walked up to me and gave me a king size reeses peanut butter cups.  And I ate them – candy from a stranger…  perhaps not the best lesson for my kids, but I didn’t share that one.

After the rally outside finished up, people just started marching around the Capitol square, and the square was filled with a uninterrupted flow of people packed, carrying signs and chanting.  The kids got pretty into the call and responses, especially “Tell me what democracy looks like!  THIS is what democracy looks like!”  (Imagine it with a drum line, it was pretty sweet.)

There were very few opposition people there.  I’ve heard 1,000 but I would be surprised if that were true.  There were a few really offensive signs, and I had the urge to quick draft response signs but I felt like the better time for that would be when my kids weren’t with me.  One teabagger got in my face a bit when I sort of separated from the crowd to try to call my friend Nicole who had ridden with me and split off to look for another friend.  But his argument was nonsensical and he reminded me of seriously mentally disturbed people, so I just told him I was very sorry for his troubles (because he had to move out of state because he used to teach at a school which was non union and he couldn’t teach economics anymore because his theories were unpopular) and he moved away from me.

The most awkward part was when the kids and Nicole and I were leaving, apparently the opposition rally disbanded as well and so we were walking back to the car (still carrying our signs) surrounded by these people, and Dillon starts to try to rally a chant “What’s disgusting? Union Busting!”  And he really didn’t find any takers.  I told him to chill out a bit.  He’s a sweet kid but he doesn’t always know his audience.

Wait – my bad – that was the second most awkward part.  The most awkward part was that Dillon pretty much read every sign in the march, and at one point he turns to me after reading a sign about what people should do to the governor, and he asks me “What is teabagging, mom?”  I had physically tried to turn his head so he missed that one, but I just said, “we’re not going to talk about that, it is really inappropriate.”  And amazingly, he dropped it.

Overall, it was really something that I am happy we took the time to do.  And we’ll see how things play out but I might try to go back this week.  It’s an important issue, and while I am not super-hopeful about our chances of success, it is worth fighting for.


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