Saturday, March 12, 2011

I will be delayed

since the school where I teach was on spring break this past week, I thought about taking some time to drive down to madison and join the hoopla protesting the rollback of union rights. but almost immediately I knew I couldn't do that. or more accurately, I could, but to do so would require changing my whole week around.

here on the rim I'm only a 3 1/2 hour drive from mad-town, an easy two-cigar trip, and have people there with whom I knew I could stay, one of whom even works near the capitol, so I could be, in effect, a commuting protestor for a day.

but to do so meant discounting my responsibilities. I was responsible for church services both sundays and had older testament class monday night, dog-training class tuesday night, internship hours and 2 meetings on wednesday, and internship class thursday night, and that isn't even to mention doing the laundry and dishes and walking the dogs. I decided I should be able to drive down early morning friday the 11th and come home saturday night.

but I was felled by a cold the previous friday night that made even speaking painful and caused me to miss tuesday's class and reschedule my meetings and internship for friday. I knew that to get down there, even for a day, would require changing everything for that day and maybe the days surrounding it.

I spent the entire week feeling, in addition to ill, a nagging sense that I should be down there. this is important, this fight for bargaining rights. I've belonged to 3 unions in my working life, and I've walked my share of pickets, even picketing for a union that wasn't my own. I'm a staunch believer in the necessity of unions and collective action. I know there are excesses and abuses but show me a human organization where there is none.

but I couldn't rationalize my desire to be in mad-town beyond the dull sensation that I itched to be there. there is a history happening there and I am close by and want to be a part of it and that is about it. I am aware of how little I might do there--all I could do is observe, which is important in itself--but there is no lack of eyes already available there. I might say something to someone, an offhand comment to a fellow protester, say, or a word to someone who disagreed with me that might in some way change the way he thinks. but to think a single day is time and opportunity enough to accomplish anything like that is to engage in a delusion of influence and presence that would put me head and shoulders above even the place scott walker imagines himself.

so, with a depressing sense of obligation, I put off going to fight the good fight and stayed home to fulfill my duties. I felt like everyone else had gone off to the dance while I practiced my violin.

but at my postponed meeting on friday, which was supposed to be a casual discussion over coffee with the chair of the planning committee for one of the churches where I intern, I quickly realized that what I was actually doing there was providing a listening post for him to talk about, among other things, the goings-on in madison as well as nearly every other left-of-center event and idea that has happened in the past year and a half. he is an attorney specializing in divorce and family mediation, a specialty that is in its definition a conservative activity, and it dawned on me after the first 1/2 hour he simply wanted to talk about what he saw going on around him with someone who wasn't going to tell him he was crazy or wrong, with someone who would listen attentively and respectfully and even chime in with his own observations. and I came to the epiphany that while I wasn't likely to make any effect at the dance, where I'd be 1 among thousands, I could do good staying at home, where I was 1 of 2.

the protests don't show any sign of stopping despite walker's attempts at undercutting the state constitution--in fact, they may be gaining momentum--so I may end up out there sometime soon. in the meanwhile, I've made this request of my friends who've gone on ahead to join our brothers and sisters on the line. kiss them for me, I will be delayed.

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