Apparently this week marked the 100th day since Governor Walker dropped his emergency budget repair bill on the state. 100 days. It hardly seems like it could be so much time, and yet so little time. I've felt this week that I should offer some sort of retrospective and yet I don't really know where to begin. I'm still on the rollercoaster of emotion - sorrow, inspiration, frustration, hope, anger.... Things have changed in terms of my own behavior, and maybe there are some small tremors of change on a larger scale. Only time will tell.
I'm reading a book right now, Small Acts of Resistance, which shares a number of stories from around the world of ways that people have acted against oppression. I think I was hoping for a little more detail, and maybe some tips. On the one hand, this is serving as a good reminder of the ways that many other people around the world have fought back against much greater forces. Walking around the Capitol with a sign, changing where I buy groceries and liquid soap from, all these are small actions with little repercussion to me, compared to people who risk getting shot at in order to vote. On the other hand, the stories show very small ways that people have acted, and yet, in mass, these very small acts do change the world. So I guess it encourages me to continue my small acts.
Still, sometimes I am so tired! Granted, I bring some of the work on myself. I could just remain quiet and then I wouldn't have to be here at the computer writing a blog post or crafting the words for the shop's sign. I could just remain quiet, and then I wouldn't have to listen to people criticize my business as they walk by. I could just remain quiet. But I don't really think quiet is an option for me at the moment. I feel like people often portray their quiet as neutrality, but it is interpreted as complicity or acceptance. Whether or not that is intended, that is how it is received. And that is not acceptable to me. I'm still trying to figure out a one-sentece reply to out-of-towners who ask what's going on. It's hard to know where to begin, or, more precisely, hard to know where to stop and not cross the line into yelling at a customer or crying in front of a total stranger.
And I continue with my signs and my blog posts, even though I know that I have customers who disagree with me, and I know that from a business standpoint, it is probably bad manners to imply that your customer might be wrong. Of course, at the moment, my signs and my blog posts are still bringing more people into the store than keeping people away. I feel fortunate to live in Madison and a generally receptive environment so that the "risk" I am taking is relatively small and my words are mostly well-received. Still, every day, I do hear someone walk by the store and say something to the effect of, "state workers are sexy?! keep calm and protest on?! I'm not going in there!" Is it a missed sale, perhaps, but what makes me more sad is that it is a missed opportunity. It is easier, of course, but is this world really going to work if we all just stick within our perceived categories and never test if we can work across whatever lines exist, maybe even find something else in common? I say that as much for myself as anyone else, because when I am tired, it certainly does feel easier to just surround oneself with people who agree with you.
Take yesterday for example - a busy Saturday without our part-timer, the week had gone slowly and quickly at once, I was ready for a break. I do realize that most conversation I hear in the store isn't really meant for me, but the fact remains that I do hear it. A woman was walking around the store and said to her friend, "I should protest THIS place." Her friend told her to just not read the buttons. The woman later said, "And I heard that they were calling up businesses and asking if they were Republican and if they were, they were boycotting them!" Now, I can't speak for everyone, and I'm pretty sure everyone has had their moments of bad behavior but that hissed rumor-spreading really irked me. Condeming our store and threatening to boycott us, and then objecting to other people using boycotting as a tool to express themselves?! At least Sachi said she overheard the woman granting that everyone was entitled to their opinion. Still, I found myself lingering a bit too long over my upset feelings. But then I started thinking of all the pleasant interactions I had over the course of the day, the people laughing at the button table, the man who told me he was cheering us on from Chicago, the people who were inspired AND made purchases... And I realized that once again I was giving a lot of time and energy to the squeaky wheel. Why do we do that to ourselves?
On the one hand, it is easy to succumb to the squeaky wheel time/energy-drain. The other option is just to avoid the squeaky wheels all together. And so, I'll admit, that sometimes when someone walks through the door wearing a protest button, I am like a star-bellied Sneetch seeing another star-bellied Sneetch. A part of me relaxes immediately. Phew, they aren't going to ask me what's going on in the state, or make me feel defensive about being a Democrat. And is that what Walker has really done to me? Made me jump so readily to separate people into those with stars and those without? Oh, ugh.
In case you are wondering about the customer, I didn't say anything to her about politics. I asked my usual question, "are you finding everything all right," in my usually polite voice. I didn't get into an argument or dissolve into tears. Maybe, in the end, the both of us can just focus on, "everyone's entitled to their opinion," and leave it at that.