So Wisconsin finally voted out Scott Walker... I have been waiting for this day; A day that the general population of the state came to their senses and sent a clear message to their governor. It was a mistake, we never should have been with you in the first place, our lives are now so much worse for having know you. Instead the state barely voted him out by narrow margins 49.6% Tony Evers 48.4% Scott Walker. So he is gone but the cathartic moment I was hoping for is now dashed upon the rocks on the Milwaukee shoreline of Lake Michigan carried on by the weakest of blue waves. Did you hear that?
There it went.
Still in honor of the flaccid moment in Wisconsin's political history I felt motivated to share what material I had generated during the 2011 Act 10 protests and the Recall Election. I don't expect anyone to really sit through the 45 minutes of photos and video I compiled on YouTube but you can find it below if you are so interested and as a epilogue of sorts I am including something I wrote on the night of the failed recall election.
2012-06-05 When Is a Hometown Not A Hometown Anymore
It happened faster than anyone could have anticipated in under an hour after the official close of the polls (2051 to be exact) NBC called the election for Republicans. My wife and I sat there in disbelief; with only 23% of precincts reporting, surely that there was still a chance! The next hour saw three more major news outlets call the race in favor of the Republicans and all hope was gone. My wife sat there, she never really wept, the tears just welled up and she blinked them away.
The night I met her (was pretty cloudy) but I clearly recall saying to her when she told me what her job was that, "along with nursing, that it was one of the great thankless professions." Over six years later I sat there and watched my now wife crying, neither of us could have imagined back then, the depth to the truth that statement would carry.
What do you do when a state’s population roundly rejects your professions right to fair pay and benefits? Where do you go from there? The immediate knee jerk reaction for both of us was "away."
She went to bed, she had to go to work the next day and do the job that had just been confirmed to be of less worth by a majority of the voters in our state. Since I am still on my long break and I had anticipated that the election would run much later into the night and had planned to go to an election watch party at a theater near the state capitol building, at the time of making that plan I thought that surely had we won, the celebration would have been one to be a part of. Instead, driving down there knowing that the Republicans had already won the night had an entirely different feeling.
It was about 2220 when I finally left the house, I figured that maybe I could meet some interesting people still and maybe start on my goal of adding some Democratic friends to my circle. The temperature was in the mid 60's and the moon was full and low, that brown/orange that makes you want to stop and stare at it, something that never looks the same when you take a picture of it. It is something that you just have to see. I drove the Buick down there slowly (around 5 mph under the speed limit) not consciously, there were no cars on the road so you could just drive your mood and my mood was 5 mph slower than the law dictated. I had the four windows cracked about 3 inches and the cool air felt wonderful, not being in a rush to get down there I took the time to take in the sights.
Not much changes on the way to downtown. It's when you get onto the main road into campus that the changes start to become evident. The gigantic Target Superstore, the string of new apartment construction that backs up against the main drag and the new UHS building also along the "high speed" portion of the main drag before you get to the Mechanical Engineering Building. Then there's the new student union, and a plethora of new buildings, the absence of an old residence hall and the presence of the monstrosity that is the new one. It began to dawn on me that none of this is familiar to me at all. I used to think that I had fond memories of the two years I screwed off on campus but that place is gone...
I parked at the ramp that sits behind the where we had our wedding and after driving past some twenty-somethings that were just out getting drunk on a Tuesday (ah those days) and then it dawned on me, some of the partial genius of the timing of the vote, the bulk of the students were gone, it was summer break. None of these "kids" seemed to be aware of what had gone on during the day and what transpired that night, they were caught up in their own microcosms.
I walked up towards the capitol and was greeted by a small crowd (maybe 200 people) of hangers-on, most were resigned, angry, all were talking about general strikes, other options of what to do next. I stood across the street and watched long enough for some young Republicans to drive up honking their horns and waving out the windows. They slowed to a crawl, I couldn't hear what they were saying over the honking and the "fuck you's" that the small crowd were hurling towards the cars. The eight policemen next to me in their in riot gear perked up for a second, but the car drove off without incident and they went back to wishing they were anywhere else on a Tuesday night.
None of those people seemed like friend material to me so I walked past them and out of earshot of their grumblings. My mind went back to how nice of a night it really was, in an "Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?" sort of way. The Capitol Building was looking its best against the night sky, one of the sights I will never get tired of here. "Sad to think that a Republican will get to continue to inhabit the place," I thought to myself. I caught up to a rough looking fellow that I'm sure the right wingers would have loved to hold up as an occupy derelict. I couldn't tell if he was drunk, a little off or both when he says to me, "there's always the legal route." I chuckled and said, "Let’s hope so," and moved on.
The watch party at the theater was more of the same, "Who was I kidding," I thought to myself. The kind of Democratic friends I was looking for wouldn't still be out at 11:00p on a Tuesday night drinking five dollar tall boys of Pabst Blue Ribbon; So I continued on my trek around the square, around the two last "quiet" corners of the square and back to the loud corner and down towards where I parked, I thought I would stop by one of the old hangers-on bars that I like and have a drink.
This street had changed a lot since I came here as well; some of the bars had the same name but were in different locations, others were in the same location but with different names, shuffled in the name of revitalization. When I got to my regular bar it looked like it was open but there was no staff in sight, the desire for a drink had waned so much at that point that I didn't even have the motivation to reach out and grab the handle of the door and give it a pull to see if it was locked.
I went back to the car, and took the same slow drive back home, with a feeling I had one other time after a walk around downtown, when I came to the realization that I would never be happy until I went back to school and got my Bachelors. That it was a wound to my psyche to have that failure hanging over my head. I was on my way home with the realization that this isn't the same place I remembered it to be. It used to be the city I loved; now it is the city I live in. And if the city you live in is surrounded by a population that thinks and acts counter to the way you do, you really need to love that city to stay there. I drove home not sure that I had that love in me anymore.
I started to think about the changes to the city and a metaphor started to form in my head of the city and myself and my friends. I have lived in here for 15 years and no one can expect a city to stay the same forever. And much like this city has changed so have my friends, things have happened in their lives and mine and those things have changed each and every one of us. As I've said recently when I see my friends and listen to them talk and see their actions, it feels like I have very little in common with them other than time spent. Just like this town. The thing now is what do I do with that realization?