Friday, November 18, 2011

This is what I mean - it's nasty out there!

Example of what I wrote about yesterday:

Woman won't be charged in Walker posting 

Most striking to me is less what the headline is about, though the guy who posted this comment suggesting Gov Walker be killed rather than recalled is chilling at the least. We sure don't need this kind of thing going out over social networks. But the part that puts the chill down my spine (and the incidents that I described yesterday in a scarier context) is this:
"...blogger Heather DuBois Bourenane drew attention in September when NBC News anchor Brian Williams read to Walker a sharply critical letter from the Sun Prairie teacher at the network's Education Nation conference.

"DuBois Bourenane said the threat came in a 4 a.m. phone call Thursday from a man who wouldn't identify himself. She said the man told her in a deliberate but threatening tone that her life and the lives of her family were in danger because 'you've attracted the attention of some very bad people.'"

I want authorities all across the country to get serious about this.Whoever left that message on DuBois Bourenane's phone does not believe in democracy and is willing to put a chill on freedom of speech with the threat of personal violence to her family. Keep in mind that this political climate that often feels like a pressure cooker ready to blow comes at a time when this state has liberalized its gun laws and all kinds of people are and will be walking around with concealed weapons, angry, frustrated.

What made that guy turn his car around to confront my neighbor and I because I was signing the petition to recall our governor, a right written into our state's constitution? If he doesn't believe I have this right, then he doesn't believe in Wisconsin's version of democracy. And that's what worries me about a certain hidden rage coming to the surface these days.

Yesterday evening, Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn was dripping with disdain and condescension on the North Ave. I-43 bridge when he said of the Milwaukee occupiers that had shut it down: "They can sit and freeze their butts off, I don't care," saying he would not fulfill their "martyrdom fantasies" by arresting anybody. Then, as if he was claiming right to speak for the neighborhood where the traffic disruption was taking place, he pronounced: "If they're angry about the economy, go to Wall Street. There's 35% unemployment in this neighborhood. Who are they disrupting?" (see Occupy demonstration closes North Ave. bridge).

Mr. Flynn, do you not get the point you just made indirectly!? What are they disrupting in a neighborhood with 35% unemployment? What is there to disrupt? The disruption is the 35% unemployment! The disruption is the poverty caused by the flight of corporate manufacturers out of the city with no sense of responsibility to the communities they took advantage of for labor and resources for several decades, then abandoned without conscience or remorse. The disruption comes from the ensuing neglect on the part of this city - for which all of us are responsible in one way or another - for those abandoned workers and neighborhoods. The disruption comes from Repubs' refusal to support jobs bills, like funds for infrastructure repairs needed all through this city and state and nation. The disruption comes from the deep-seated racism that is often at work in hate-filled expressions like the postcard and phone messages I received earlier this year and that DuBois Bourenane received yesterday morning.

I want my state and city officials to take all of this a bit more seriously. I want them to understand that the protesters are not the problem, but that we have a problem, and that every dismissive, disdainful, nasty comment they make only adds to the problem. You are government officials! Act like it! A little disorder is one of the blessings of democracy. We were founded, after all, on a bit of disruption back in the 1770s. The tone you set matters!

In this political mean season, where tensions are at times filled with threat, we need leaders who will tamp down the nasty rhetoric. People are hurting out here, something that well-paid privileged government officials don't seem to get very well right now. We are a nation reeling with change, inevitable change, really big enormous change, and many are feeling threatened, left out, powerless, and frightened. What are we going to do in the face of that change? How are we going to handle ourselves?

I know this for sure: policies that continue to collapse the well-being of workers and unemployed, that feed divisiveness among us, that dismiss the impact of deeply entrenched poverty and racism on neighborhoods and their people, that forget that democracy must have space for vibrant, sometimes disorderly expression when people feel they are not being heard, and that break down our commitment to the common good, that sense of all of us being in this together - those policies are far more responsible for what is going on in our streets and the unleashing of more and more hate, than anything else in our culture right now.
Politics of exclusion and disdain lead in only one direction - and it's not a good one.

This is only the beginning of a 12-month period of political turmoil. We have got to do better than this!


Photos: Margaret Swedish

No comments:

Post a Comment