watching democracy

We briefly take a break from an analysis of post-separated life with kids, to discuss the outbreak of democracy in WI, OH & IN.

Last week, I was asked to speak at a meeting of activists, many of whom were trying desperately to figure out how they could get themselves to Madison (the only ones who weren’t doing that were trying to figure out how to get other people to come to Columbus or Indianapolis).

This is something along the lines of what I said to that group:

Here are two things you probably don’t know about me that are important to this story: #1, I’m a Jersey girl; and #2, I majored in theater in college. About 10 years ago, I was in a bookstore, and I saw this book called Striking Performances/Performing Strikes, the first half of which is about the Flint sit-down strike, and the ways that some groups of workers, particularly the Ladies’ Auxiliary, used street theater to sustain the strikers and get their message out. That’s the part that got me to buy the book.

The second half of the book, though, is about the occupation of the state capitol in Trenton, NJ by the Unemployed Council in something like 1935. Unemployed workers took over the state capitol, and they also used theater to get their messages across. And the thing that stunned me about that is that I grew up and was educated in New Jersey from the time I was in kindergarten until I graduated from college, and I never heard that story, never knew that part of my history.

It’s the same way that our history–working peoples’ history–is stolen from us all the time–we can actually see it happening in Wisconsin right now, where Fox News is constantly under-reporting the number of people coming to actions and the seriousness of their struggle.

What’s going on in Wisconsin is exciting and big, and if you’re any kind of organizer at all, you want to be there. But the thing that changed America in the 1930s was not every organizer across the nation flocking to Trenton–it was the fact that people in Unemployed Councils in other cities and states kept on organizing and kept beating a drumbeat for change across the nation.

If this feels to you like a moment where you can put your other work on pause, then you should think again. It’s a moment where we have to use the fights we’re in, in states and cities around the country, to amplify this moment, and make it larger–to use it to redirect the national conversation about who’s paying their fair share and who’s not; about who’s profiting and who’s suffering, in this economy. We have a chance to take our country back from the far-right ideologues who have gained control of too many state houses. Let’s take it.

I still wanna go to Wisconsin, though.


February 27, 2011. politically motivated.


  1. Becca replied:


  2. Jody replied:

    Yeah, I’d like to be there, too. But these are excellent points about what everyone else should be doing.

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