We try to teach our children to fight when they need to but to fight fairly unless there is no other choice to protect life and limb. At least that’s what my parents tried to teach me and what I tried to teach my kids. Though I know that the protests in Madison and their incredible importance to the rights of workers to collectively bargain define a critical juncture for American organized labor and for states fighting budget woes, I also think this fight has been brewing at a more basic level for a long time in our nation.
There hasn’t been a fair political fight or policy fight for decades in America. Life and limb have been at stake, but we are good at even coloring those issues with shades of cultural gray and loading each other with expectations few can achieve in reality. Money and power and abuse of both have stripped most Americans of any hope to participate in a meaningful way in our own self-governance. We’ve been stuck in a sham-democracy. Oh, sure, sometimes if it serves someone in power to do so, everyday folks are propped up as examples and sometimes someone fights hard enough and long enough and is in the right place at the right time to ride a wave to some influence. But most of us have to keep teaching how to fight fair in a nation and world where only losers actually do so.
So while I’ll leave the larger political and organizational lessons to all the voices with more authority and knowledge than I possess to keep pressing forward, I am thrilled as a grand-mom and mother to pass along a lesson about fighting fair.
The thousands and thousands of people in Madison and the thousands and thousands standing in solidarity around the country are doing so because hundreds of the rich and powerful have fought with their money and the power that purchased for them (OK, they got their money from us). We’re taking that power back. And to take it back requires a huge fight that won’t end when the Democrats return to Madison. Lest we ever forget it, few of our elected officials have been shining examples of courage in recent years as corporate money and influence and the fear of losing pushed so many of every political stripe to act in self-serving ways and not people-serving ones. They only reference the people’s will when it serves their own. And we’ve had enough.
We will have to be a vigilant about the struggle for people’s rights as the wealthy and powerful have been in protecting their profits at our expense. We’ll have to risk losing the illusion of what we have individually for the goals of what we want our society to be in terms of rights and responsibilities.
We’ll need to turn our talk about fair fighting into more Madison-like actions. Because if we do not fight the fight for fair fighting rights, then we will sink deeper into a society where only those with millions or billions of dollars or other more obviously violent methods of oppression will win any issue or argument. This is more than a fight about unions – though that is serious enough. It is a fight about who and what we are – of the people, by the people, for the people or not so much.
Listen to my littlest SiCKO sister, it’s about, “Power to the people.” Onward, dear Aurora, onward. We’re fighting to make sure you will have fair fights to wage long after we’re gone. This is America, after all. Go, Wisconsin.