Volunteers of America
Friday 18 February 2011
by: William Rivers Pitt, t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed
Peaceful protesters outside the capitol building in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo: Rob Chandanais / Flickr)
Did you hear about the uprising?
Not the one in Tunisia, or Egypt.
No not the one in Libya, though what has been happening there is certainly riveting. Thousands of protesters took to the streets in several cities, defying the forty-year rule of Muammar el-Qaddafi under threat of death.
Not the similar one in Bahrain, where several died and many more were injured.
Not the similar one in Yemen, which has been going on for more than seven days.
Not the really interesting one in Iran, which has been a long time coming, and which prompted the ruling elite to call for the immediate murder of anyone and everyone who is not down with the sickness.
Not the one in Iraq, which involved a demand from the city of Baghdad for one billion dollars from the United States of America, to pay for the damage done to the city from the war.
No, not there. It looks like this, there:
A fog of smoke, tear gas and fresh unease descended over cities throughout the region, with demonstrations and rolling street battles lurching in violent new directions as governments fought to blunt their momentum and reassert control of the streets. States imposed curfews and ordered people to stay home, and those who defied the orders risked gunfire or beatings at the hands of security forces, private guards or pro-government crowds.
In the great state of Wisconsin.
Wisconsin, of all places, where the Governor has threatened to turn loose National Guard troops and State Police officers on tens of thousands of peaceful protesters who have assembled to petition their government for a redress of grievances.
Here's the deal, in case you've missed the news: Wisconsin's newly-minted Republican governor, Scott Walker, has wreathed himself in folly during the slender six weeks he has disgraced the office.
First, he imposed a series of ridiculous proposals on the state, which do nothing whatsoever to help the economy but cost upwards of $140 million.
Second, he ignored the judgment of the state's fiscal bureau - whose responsibilities are akin to the Congressional Budget Office - which said the state's financial situation was not nearly dire enough to require "austerity measures," and would in all likelihood finish the year with a surplus...said surplus prediction, it should be noted, got screwed out of existence by Walker's absurd and expensive policy initiatives.
Third, and in fulfillment of what appears to be a life-long loathing of anything relating to union or public-sector workers, Walker demanded that any and all collective bargaining rights be abolished, and that all state employees and union members eat what amounts to a massive and unprecedented pay and benefits cut across the board...cuts which, by the by, will do almost nothing to stimulate Wisconsin's economy, but will fulfill Mr. Walker's ambition to destroy union labor in the state.
Walker's bill wended it's way to the Wisconsin legislature...and that's when the magic began to happen. Teachers walked, shutting down schools. Protesters began massing, and then thronging, at the Wisconsin capitol building. Firefighters, cops, students and state employees of every stripe boiled into the streets, and then into the capitol dome itself, to shout down Walker's draconian measures.
To top it off, fourteen of Wisconsin's congressional Democrats - Tim Carpenter, Spencer Coggs, Tim Cullen, Jon Erpenbach, Dave Hansen, Jim Holperin, Robert Jauch, Chris Larson, Julie Lassa, Mark Miller, Fred Risser, Lena Taylor, Kathleen Vinehout and Robert Wirch - blew town on the eve of the controversial vote in order to deny the Republican majority a quorum, thus stalling the legislation and thrilling the mass of protesters who cheered their absent representatives like conquering heroes. As of this writing, they are still out of state, absent, gone, but giving press interviews here and there to carry forth the fight.
No tear gas. Yet.
No military forces deployed. Yet.
No one dead. Pray never.
But an uprising all the same, and right here in passive America. Take note, all and sundry: Democrats have gotten together with progressives, who have gotten together with Unions, who have gotten together with regular folks, and every single one of them is rowing in the same direction at speed. It has not happened for a long time, but just like when it has happened before, look out below.
These are days to be remembered. These are days to join up, and join in. Similarly brutal and savagely anti-worker bills are pending in more than a dozen states - there was a similar protest in Ohio on Thursday, which looks to be just as chippy as what is taking place in Wisconsin - so this fight will continue to be waged across this great land.
Today, the regulat folks in one state rose up righteous and spit the pabulum about "sharing sacrifices" into the faces of those politicians who would not know sacrifice if it peed on them. Wall Street doesn't have to sacrifice, the "defense" department doesn't have to sacrifice, insurance companies don't have to sacrifice, banks don't have to sacrifice, but you absolutely have to eat a pay and benefits cut, right?
There were many voices this last month that raised the cry, "We are all Egyptians!"
Well, today I am from Wisconsin, and I am damned proud to say so.
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