For most of the last decade, I lived in the crazy, cold, contradictory state that is Wisconsin. I wrote research papers in Madison, performed poems in Milwaukee, walked picket lines in Jefferson, organized student conferences in Eau Claire, led artistic workshops in Green Bay, spoke at my roommate’s wedding in Merrill, and went camping with my future wife at Black River Falls.
A big-city kid from the East Coast, I never fully got used to the overwhelming whiteness of Wisconsin – the winter, and yes, the people. But I eventually learned how to wear five layers in February, and that amidst the farms and abandoned factories, there was a working-class people with a strong populist ethic. As my freshman roommate from Wausau once told me, “Josh, I don’t follow politics. I just hate corporations.”
Fast-forward to 2011: the new Republican Governor, Scott Walker, has declared war on my old roommate and all Wisconsin workers. Under the guise of a budget deficit, Walker just put forth a bill that would destroy the unions that represent teachers, social workers, and over 100,000 public employees. He’s also making huge cuts to schools, health care, public transportation, and anything that actually helps people live.
Want more crazy? Walker ordered the National Guard to get ready to respond to a strike or any resistance to his plan. The last time Wisconsin called in the National Guard was way back in 1886, when they shot on a rally of Milwaukee workers advocating an 8-hour work day. Five unarmed workers were killed in the massacre.