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I have this tl;dr thing I've been drafting about our protests for two weeks now. I don't know if it'll ever be finished (what's the point in tl;dr?) but I need to put a shorter thing out there in the meantime.

If you asked me how I felt about this mess I wouldn't be able to do it in a hundred words or less. My mind and heart are spinning on so many levels right now.

  1. On a shallow level: This is the most entertaining thing that has happened in my town, like, ever. It is like the Real World. Every day some politician pulls some outrageous stunt that gets everybody's attention and we can't talk about anything else. Every day someone capitalizes on all this excitement for profit in some breathtakingly obvious way. Today I ordered a T-shirt from the official restaurant of the revolution -- "Ian's Pizza: This is what democracy tastes like."
  2. On a deeper level: I'm worried by these shenanigans because when the dust settles, I still have to live here. I supported my Senator's exit (and told him so) because I think it did something important -- it gave us time. Three weeks of daylight have given us all a pretty good idea what's in the bill and what its effects might be. Three weeks convinces me that union busting is not, by and large, something this swing state favors. But life goes on and politics goes on and I'm really concerned that the atmosphere right now is so hostile that the minority party can no longer serve effectively as the loyal opposition. Until the balance of power in our Capitol changes, they are all lame ducks.
  3. On an intellectual level: I am totally bowled over by all the stuff that this has taught me about Wisconsin history, state politics, and activism. Yeah, there are some eyeroll-inspiring signs out there, with bad grammar or bad politics or just bad jokes; but the deeper lesson of the protests is that it IS possible to dissent with humor, without bitterness; and it IS possible, with cleverness and with patience, to change the story.
  4. On another intellectual level, where I am both amused and annoyed: I actually think there is probably a decent, grownup conversation we could be having about whether public employees ought to have the right to unionize. It's an open question in my mind. But that's not the conversation any leader in our state has tried to have -- and that's the point, to me. I am convinced that our Governor has made these moves not to protect his citizens (since when are no-bid contracts to sell state resources in the best interests of any state? do we even need to have that conversation?) but to advance himself. And here's an heuristic for you: when someone makes an aggressive push to enact an unpopular law that removes established rights and reduces middle-class income in a recession without having a grownup conversation about why, that is a law we should not have, and that is a person who should not lead.
  5. On a personal level: I've got a horse in this race. Although very little in my own life will change once this bill becomes law, the environment of my employment may change considerably, and not in a way that serves my interests. I'm also seriously worried about the many and varied economic impacts that the repair bill and the budget both will have on my town's economy. These cuts are synergistic in a way that has me wondering whether buying property in this state was a mistake. And maybe that's something my leaders should hear, too.
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