I love Madison. I really do.
I began the third grade living with my (recently divorced) mother and two sisters in a one bedroom apartment in an inner-city Chicago neighborhood. In January 1970, over Christmas break, we moved to Madison. It was an distinct improvement; that part of third grade became transformational.
The University of Wisconsin campus spaces (where my mother was a new student) were filled with singing and anti-war protests. I became aware of the struggle over the Vietnam war and, at the same time, I learned about police brutality. The UW campus community filled the public schools on the first earth day–I became aware of the environment, resource limitations, and population problems. Life was kaleidescope of lessons in politics, populism, environmentalism, radicalism…and even violent extremism, when four young anti-war activists blew up the Army Math Research Center, unintentionally killing a physics researcher in another part of the building. And, damn, there was some good music.
I was too young to participate, or even identify with, the movement, but I soaked it up—I was an observer.
Madison was home for two more decades. I went to the University of Wisconsin–Madison and earned Bachelors and Masters degrees. I worked my way through college, for small companies, for the University, and by starting my own company. By the time I left in 1990, Madison, like much of the country, had become tame, domesticated, pacified. The radicals of the 1970s were now raising their own teenagers, if not becoming grandparents. They were living the Big Chill. Priorities change.
Most of my family still live in Madison, so I visit a couple time a year. The past decade had been hard on the region, economically and psychologically. A mild gloom and sense of struggle has taken hold. And then, in 2010, Wisconsin experienced some kind of collective depression; they voted a bunch of radical right wing whack-jobs into office.
On Wednesday morning I got a call from my niece. “Uncle Darryl…I’m not in school today. Know why?”
“I sure do, Elena.”
I was delighted that school had been cancelled in Madison as tens of thousands of public employees flocked to the Capitol building to protest the extremist legislation proposed by Gov. Walker.
The Governor proposes to strip away rights for public employees that have been in place for decades. Well fuck him.
My darling niece then proceeded to describe the injustice she felt was being done to teachers and other public employees and how she and her friends wouldn’t stand for it. I do believe I teared up very slightly.
Now I’m thinking that after some decades of slumber…these people have awakened. They feel again, and they don’t like what the extremists in office are shoving up their back side. Yeah…I fully expect that Walker will get his chance to shit all over the public employees. But his party is going to pay.
My prediction…2012 will be a bad year for Republicans in Wisconsin.