As I stood near the Assembly Room on the second level of our state’s capital, a voice cried out from the floor of the Rotunda, “Tell me what democracy looks like!” Thousands of Wisconsinites in a unified, thunderous voice responded, “THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!!” Holding the American flag, some dressed in uniform blues, groups of proud firefighters and their families marched through the massive crowd inside the capital. At times I found it difficult to hold my emotions in check as I witnessed Democracy in action.
Traveling with five of my colleagues to Madison, our goal was to show our unity with the tens of thousands of people that have been in Madison all week protesting Governor Scott Walker’s Budget Repair Bill. On this Saturday, members of the Tea Party were present to support the Bill and provide a response to the outpouring of resistance the Governor has received since the details of the Bill were made public. As one of my colleagues so aptly posted on FaceBook, “our trip to Madison saw peace…, inspiration…, controversy…, and Democracy….”
I disappeared into the river of people that flowed around Capital Square. I held a sign implying the significance of being unified. While marching in peaceful protest, my senses were livened. I listened to the chants, I looked at the signs, the cold wind chapped my skin while the sun hinted at hopeful warmth, the bitter sweetness of knowing the grave nature of this Bill on the middle class juxtaposed with taking action in peaceful protest touched my tongue, and, of course, I could smell grills cooking bratwurst…certainly, I’m sure, they were not Johnsonville Brats.
There were few that traveled upstream in this river. The pro-Walker supporters were few, but they showed their conviction in full throat and persuasive slogans on their signs. Most of these right-wing schools were gathered on the banks of this human river; I could always tell when I was nearing a ‘hot spot’ because the volume of the chants would significantly rise.
I met several people from both sides of this debate and we shared our concerns and visions. Then, we each continued on with our day. I listened to many heated conversations, like bellying up to a bar debating Favre versus Rodgers. On this day, however, the debate about bargaining rights and fixing a crushed budget was way too real. Although, at times, this protest only seemed to be entertaining, like a tailgate party before a Badgers’ football game, it was real and it was emotional. The impact of this Bill being passed or not passed is personal to so many.
The one thing I left Madison with was the strong sense that we are not alone, no matter what side of the debate we are on, we are not alone. As we were driving to Madison in the morning, I commented to my group that God was certainly up to something with all of this. We all agreed that God brings good from adversity. So, one way or another, no matter how this all turns out in the end, we will be okay as long as we can keep God as our focus.
Being present and active in peaceful protest in Madison for the Budget Repair Bill has given me a sense of pride. I have never really been interested in politics to this degree, but now I have a whole new appreciation for the passion people have for politics. I know my passion for this element of our lives has been ramped up. I witnessed, firsthand, just what Democracy looks like, and, for that, I am thankful.