The North Remembers


They were standing by a lamp post, this middle-aged couple. They could have been my parents, in another life. They could have been yours.

Sue and Kim. He retired after 33 years working for the state. She still worked for the state, on a temporary contract that kept getting extended. They’d had pay freezes for half a dozen years, when they didn’t have pay cuts. They weren’t getting wealthy on their pensions. They weren’t sporting $60 haircuts. They lived in a small town. They were trying to hold on to what they had.

Behind them, around Madison’s beautiful Capitol, people walked with kids and dogs, and cops watched from their bikes and horses. A man in a Badger costume danced on the steps. A man with an accordion played.

“This is where we were 18 months ago when the protests began,” Kim said. “We thought we would finish where we started.”

Look, there are a lot of things I could say right now. About how it’s not over, about this instance of voter fraud or other, about the indictments sure to come down. About where we go from here, about what we do. The crowd at the Capitol was stunned, Tuesday night. Angry, but mostly just stunned. And then the song began, rising up from around the statue of the Lady, holding out her hand to tomorrow.

Oh, how glad and happy when we meet
I’ll fly away
No more cold iron shackles on my feet
I’ll fly away.

This stuff is hard for a reason. These fights are fights for a reason. Unlikely victories in the face of impossible odds take place because the odds are impossible and the victories unlikely, and we fight what we fight because otherwise we’d spend our entire lives talking about how and why we didn’t fight them. I know I say this all the time. I know it gets tiresome. It IS tiresome. Tell me what else to say, here. Give me words.

There’s not a lot this life asks of us. Just fight the fights in front of you, that’s all, and you pick what those fights are. People who picked these fights, they weren’t planning on having it easy. Do you know how long it’s been since there’s been any demonstration of union strength in this entire goddamn country? Do you know how far back into history people had to reach?

I can tell you this, for certain: We are no less free, because thousands of people in Madison and Milwaukee and upstate and downstate and east and west, city mice and country mice and mice in the burbs, stood up and said no more. I can tell you this for certain: We are no poorer, for the past 18 months. We are no dumber, we are no weaker, we are no more afraid.

We are no less.

After the returns came in, and the crowd quieted, and the TV crews turned their lights off and went home, I looked for Sue and Kim.

I couldn’t find them.

But as I searched through the crowd, the songs rose up, over the city in the pale orange light of the setting sun.

Just a few more weary days and then
I’ll fly away
To a land where joys will never end
I’ll fly away.

I hope they heard it, that song, rising up. I hope everyone heard it. I hope it rang through the halls of power and I hope no one ever forgets.


5 thoughts on “The North Remembers

  1. Great post, and yes it’s not over.
    Bottom line: After months of struggle and millions of dollars spent to silence and distort the message, 46% of Wisconsin voters told Gov. Walker that they don’t think that he should even finish one term.
    The division is real. Finding common ground with others is a must, but the struggle will continue. We should all envision a better, more just and united Wisconsin, and keep taking steps, large and small, to make the vision a reality.

  2. It’s a sunny day but I’m fighting against an inner chill, I knew in my heart it was a long shot but still hoped for better. But I’ll try to take comfort in that there’s a Very Good chance the Senate has flipped if the 800 vote advantage in Racine holds. And that the coming indictments once and for all show the rest of the state what we knew all along about the inner Walker.
    The time is now to start looking for a strong candidate to knock off a vulnerable Governor Kleefisch in 2014.

  3. A
    I hear ya. And perhaps we have not yet begun to really fight it out about our future. But this result sure confirms to me that our nation is in the complete thrall of those richest plutocrats and the CEO masters – those who have the $$, and use those $$, to flood the media at every level with well tested, well worked and well understood propaganda techniques. Techniques that have proven consistently to convince rational people that Up is Down, Right is Right and Left is Commie/Socialist/Evil/Death. And at this point, I have serious doubts that even well organized people will be able to wrest this monster to the ground and take its power. No, the monster will only die when it becomes too old and decrepit to go any further – and it has no heirs to pass on its mantle.
    In short, stay strong. But stay local (your street, your neighborhood, your village). Because the Masters of the Universe have sung it load and sung it clear. This is their country; these are their states. And no punk, DFHs are going to pry them away from their cold dead hands any time soon.

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