I’m not from Wisconsin. But for the June 5th 2012 Wisconsin recall election, I certainly had an opinion.
I was born and raised in Minnesota, the 4th and youngest child of a hog farmer and clinic office worker. Times were good for Republican farmers most of my childhood. And when times were bad, it was the opinion of the men at the Coop, as well as the church clergy, that it was because of too much rain, not enough rain, or some other crop-growing factor.
We didn’t talk much about politics. And we didn’t need to.
Everybody, more or less, shared the same opinions. There really wasn’t much to discuss. And even if there were differing opinions, God forbid it become a debate…I mean literally – God would forbid you from being too boisterous about your own ideals.
We were not boisterous. We were farmers.
And times were good, even when they weren’t. Not talking about it always seemed to help. This, of course, is being recounted from my childhood memories… It is possible that my parents sheltered us kids from how they really felt about government. It is also possible that they had no problem with government. Maybe it was part of why my family was successful. Maybe health coverage back then worked for them as they cared for my brother, a person with developmental and physical disabilities. Or maybe it didn’t work for them and they just never mentioned it.
All I knew is that we were Republican. Voting for the other candidate was for other people. Your guy won and it was good or he didn’t and it wasn’t as good. More importantly, we needed to know if it was going to rain on planting day. And that was in God’s hands; not the government’s.
I’ve been a recovering Republican for quite a few years now.
It happened sometime between being honest with myself and coming out to my family, friends and coworkers. But that’s not to say it correlates directly with my sexuality. I believe too strongly in the separation of sex and state for that to be the case. No, I’d say it just had to do with me becoming, me.
I’m an educated, unmarried, self-sufficient female who cares about social change. I am practically the textbook definition of “Democrat.” But these are also a set of attributes that make it difficult for me to distinguish cause from effect… Because I am somewhat successful, I believe it is my responsibility to lift others up as well. Indeed, it is my calling… I am, after all, also a Christian.
It’s been said Jesus was a Democrat and I have to agree. He cared for the sick, provided for the poor, had dinner with criminals. He gave second chances. He gave handouts – not as the end game, but as a way to invite people to listen, discover, start living a better way.
Did you know Jesus didn’t actually say, “God helps those who help themselves”? That was made up by moms and dads who wanted their kids to learn personal responsibility. And good for them. But He did say, “The love of money is the root of all evil.”
Growing up, I was taught not to have my own agendas. Goals and direction? Yes. But success at the expense of others? No way.
I was taught that being a team player is the only way to win. And that we are only as strong as our weakest players, so by all means, let’s lift them up, not tear them down. And if they still couldn’t field a hot line drive to shortstop, maybe they would make a wonderful outfielder. Or a member of the choir. Either way, they were given a chance, as well as extra training – if they needed it and were willing to work hard. Simpler times? Yes, maybe they were.
Being the only bleeding-heart in my family is not easy.
It’s one of those things where once I saw things this way; I could no longer see them that way. Irony of ironies, I feel the way I do about education, human rights, personal development, an occasional hand up and allowing girls on the boy’s softball team, because of my family.
I was raised very well. And I am treated well as a professional and a person. Unless I do something to mess it up, I’m respected by almost everyone I meet. This has, for the most part, been handed to me. So I’m not a fighter. I try not to be us-against-them because I’d rather be on the same team. There is a reason you don’t hear me commenting on labor unions. I’m undereducated about them and have no place making a judgment call about the concept or the individuals.
I didn’t vote for Scott Walker the first time, for really stupid reasons like the way he pronounces “Wesconsin”. And also because of the power trip I felt like he might be on. This time around, I didn’t vote for Walker because he hurts my feelings. He insults my intelligence by not being truthful. He disrespects my gender.
An economist, I am not. Afraid of sacrifice? Yes, honestly I am.
But I am willing to make sacrifices that make sense. I think everyone is. While I don’t have the answers on how to balance the budget, I do know it shouldn’t be on the backs of our friends and neighbors. Especially not the ones who teach our children and protect our communities. To me, that is the opposite of forward.
That backwards thinking is what bothers me the most.
All the talk about making the tough choices makes me ill. It would have been far more challenging for a Governor to think outside of a math equation and account for the human element. I didn’t vote for Walker because I think he takes shortcuts. He didn’t champion Milwaukee much as County Executive because, admittedly, this city has shortcomings. And they certainly would have distracted him from other agendas.
While the world was watching our state, they saw us keep a Governor who paints with incredibly wide brush strokes about who is worthy and who is not; who works hard and who doesn’t; who should get a hand up and who should not. He’s a governor; not God.
And I think broad brush strokes are dangerous – and worse, they are sloppy.
Like many Wisconsinites, I’m going through the stages of grief – Disbelief that, despite efforts to open eyes, so many turned a blind one to the dictatorial dishonesty of the Walker camp. And anger, in the form of frustration at the situation.
I’m not yet to the stages of bargaining and depression, though I’m certain there’s plenty of time for that.
Which brings me to acceptance. I’m not from here. But I will do what I can to lift Wisconsin up so we can all move on. What I will not do is buy into the “move Wisconsin forward” bullshit. The word “forward”, Mr. Walker, means progress and I don’t feel it applies here in Wesconsin at the moment.
This morning, one full day removed from the election, I’m inspired by the optimism of those who are saying it will be ok. That there is always something we can do. That it is what it is. Writing this has certainly been cathartic, so thank you for being my audience.
Editor’s note: Originally composed in a Facebook message to a few like-minded friends on June 7th, 2012. Then published shortly thereafter on the first rendition of SuddenlyAttentive.