Mr. Sillypants here, erstwhile author of the somewhat irregular blog post. Today is a day when I somehow realize that I’ve been touched by something of great significance, a set of experiences which already seem to be gathering power deep inside.
Ms. Plum, my beloved, is a dedicated high school educator, a person who has taken on the substantial yoke of teaching young minds, enduring the frustrations of the public school system with the hope that she can, somehow, instill global awareness, cultural sensitivity and a small measure of personal responsibility and humility into the lives of her students.
One of the things I often smile about is the fact that Ms. Plum is often quite dismissive about her qualities as a teacher. Pressed to describe her teaching style, she will say she is “a passable teacher.” Yet, when we meet one of her students on the street, they will often voice their exuberant praise for her blunt, honest, challenging style – – – recently, one told her that she was “the best thing that happened to her in high school.”
Right now, Wisconsin is a living political battlefield. If you don’t believe me, tune in to MSNBC for a few minutes in primetime. 15,000 rallied at the Capitol yesterday; today, it was 30,000; tomorrow, the number will be even greater. The issue – – – Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has introduced legislation which effectively eliminates the ability of public workers to negotiate. This has started a firestorm which grows by the minute; the more time passes, the stronger the protests become.
Today, Ms. Plum did some advocacy of her own. “Let’s go down to the Capitol,” she said, “it’s important.” I knew this was important, yet I was somewhat surprised by the fire in her belly. So, Blueberry, Ms. Plum and I boarded a public bus and traveled down to the Wisconsin State Capitol, to join with 30,000 others to speak out against this terribly misguided bill.
Truthfully, the experience was much more powerful than anything I could have imagined.
Perhaps it was the mass of people, peacefully protesting in a unified voice. Perhaps it was a group of firefighters who are actually unaffected by this bill, yet showed up to march through the Capitol building, led by blaring bagpipes playing a particularly powerful rendition of “America, the Beautiful,” as the rest of us applauded. Perhaps it was the continual roar of the crowd in the Capitol rotunda, calling for the defeat of Governor Walker’s bill and the return of our proud democratic process.
This photo barely catches the power of the moment. We could barely get close enough to the throng to get an adequate view of the crowd; what no photo could possibly represent was the way our hair stood on end as the repeated roars went up from the crowd, calling for equity, for responsibility, for preservation of the rights which many have given their lives to obtain.
Even Blueberry joined the effort:
I cannot remember how many times students of Ms. Plum were sighted at the Capitol, protesting this bill, participating in the process, flexing their global awareness, their cultural sensitivity, their personal responsibility. Each of them would see Ms. Plum and would smile broadly, happy to join with their teacher in this effort.
Waffles, in his own way, put a stamp on today’s events. After marching with hundreds of fellow high school students, he had the opportunity to stand up for his fellow students, for Ms. Plum and her fellow educators and (most importantly) for himself and his conscience. He was able to stand in session, before a microphone and spoke, quite eloquently, in opposition of this bill. In a particularly powerful moment, Waffles pointed out that, as a high school senior, he would likely be unaffected by this bill; after all, college is on the horizon. However, he called for lawmakers to consider all those who would be hurt by this legislation. In short, he spoke out for the needs of others.
Ms. Plum and I, listening to a live internet feed, felt a lump in our throats and tears gathering in our eyes. This is the ultimate legacy, the hope that those who we love will take up the gauntlet, speaking out for the rights of others in their own voice, with their own convictions and their own hearts.
We cannot take credit for those who join the fight for equality. It is the individual choice of each person who becomes part of this effort. Yet, when students of Ms. Plum decide to show up and protest, when Waffles answers the bell, speaking on his own in a powerful and passionate way for the rights of others, well, it is a moment when we realize we are very lucky to be in this place at this time.
Thank you for the people of Wisconsin and the people everywhere who speak out for the rights of others. You remind us what is right and good in the world.