I've been in a surprisingly cheerful mood the last two days and trying to figure out exactly where it comes from. I should be discouraged that the Democrats didn't gain the majority in the Wisconsin Senate. I should not be able to conquer my underlying fears that life is going to continue to get worse for a lot of people, that they will continue to misdirect their sorrow & anger with their own lives, that greater forces will continue to fuel that sorrow & anger, and that the income disparity will just continue to get worse in this country.
Well, to be fair, this is my birthmonth. There are lots of distractions. I'm keeping myself busy with creative projects like birthday party buttons and the guest/wishes book. Also trying to decide if I should wear red with polka dots or red with flowers. Yesterday I hosted my fellow bookmakers in a summer celebration of sunshine - cyanotype printing and then a potluck picnic. I do love parties. That seems strange for an introvert. Well, I like hosting them. Any social awkwardness on my part can be covered up in the formalities of hosting. I got carried away in the morning and added cupcakes to my list. Even though I learned at the hands of a master, my skills are rusty so the 7 minute frosting isn't quite up to par. Naturally, I still managed to eat more than my fair share.
So, yes, I am easily pleased and distracted. Vanilla Bean here in Madison has an amazing array of cupcake liners. I held back, but stood for a long time trying to make up my mind, and also thinking about all the fun cupcake liner crafts I've seen out there. I can sense a little time on Pinterest searching for cupcake liner projects.
Clearly the happiness of this week is fueled by sugar and a little birthday giddiness.
But that isn't all.
Leading up to the recall elections here in Wisconsin, I battled myself - fighting between natural optimism and bravery on one side, and a fear of jinxing things or dreaming too big on the other side. I suppose cautious optimism would be where I landed. Recognizing that winning all 6 seats would have been unlikely, consoling myself that even if things don't change within the Capitol building, there is change going on outside and that we continue on our general trajectory towards liberty and justice for all.
I think what is interesting for me to keep in mind is the recent documentary, "The Freedom Riders." A particular moment often comes to my mind, and that is the fact that Bobby Kennedy called up the Freedom Riders organizers and said something to the effect of, 'hey, why don't you lay off this for a bit. The time isn't quite right...' Politically, the U.S. was not ready for civil rights. But the people kept on. They demanded it. They brought change to the U.S.
I remember on election night in 2008, while there was a sense of giddiness when I heard the final state called for Barack Obama, I also felt this great sense of pressure, and even a little unease. All those people who were mobilized in 2008, all those hopes, all those promises. How can any one person fulfill all that? How can we overcome our desire for instant gratification and stick with our own committments to change? Would we all share the responsibility to keep the world moving in the direction we want to see it? Or would we get bogged down in the disappointment, in the everyday, in the slog of little details? That night, even as I was celebrating, a part of me was silently pleading, please please, let everyone keep their own energy and their own committment.
Well, since then, my worries have not particularly abated. I really feel that corporations and politicians have used the excuse of the economy to slide through all sorts of infringements on the lives and liberties of the American people. I feel that power and money is being grabbed and held tightly by those who already have much and I feel that is to the detriment of our entire nation. But when I really think about that, I realize that we have a long, long battle ahead of us. No one is going to give up their power or their money readily. That's just a truth. As I was driving home on Tuesday night, I passed a car with the bumper sticker, "The price of apathy is to be ruled by evil men. - Plato" And, I was thinking about Jesus, whether you believe in him or not, who makes a good tale for challenging the established ideas of who should have power and what true wealth is. So as specific and individually painful as these moments are, I also see that we are a part of an age-old battle.
We are not alone. Perhaps that is what brings me back to my sense of optimism and cheer this week. Not just because I am not alone as I celebrate my arrival to this world. But because I have this wonderful community that is around me. My friends and family, yes, but my customers as well. The many people who were out knocking on doors and making phone calls, bearing witness at the Capitol. Maybe I read too much in the buying of buttons, maybe this is my naive optimism which apparently can't be dimmed. Maybe it's just the sugar from the cupcakes. But ultimately, all that we have power to change is our own individual actions. Sharing our love and passion with the world. Strengthening our own committments to make the world a better place.
Yes, I am disappointed that the Democrats didn't win a majority in the Wisconsin Senate. And yet, even if they did, the larger problem is our Governor and his ability to line-item veto (WHY do we still have that as an option? I didn't even like it when our governor was a Democrat!). It is irksome to think that Republicans are patting themselves on the back and considering this one more nail on the coffin. Still, are 100% of the Republicans still in office still 100% confident of the path they are on? Being the optimist that I am, I feel that they must be experiencing a little uncertainty and that such moments of uncertainty might shake some foundations just a bit. More importantly, there was great voter turn-out. I'm really proud to be a Wisconsinite and I'm so proud of everyone who is participating in the direction we choose for our state. Now, if everyone who voted held their elected officials accountable, not just on election day, and not just the officials that they voted for; if everyone continues to use their voices to express the direction they want to see for Wisconsin, then we can only be on our way towards politics that really are of and by the people, all the people, not just the ones who can pay for advertising or lobbyists.
I'll admit, a part of me was being superstitous or afraid to dream big, and so that part of me is totally thrilled with the gain of two Senate seats. Furthemore, for a few hours on Tuesday night, when Senator not-so-Darling was trailing.... wow! What a feeling! Hope and elation, yes, but also this little growing seed that, hey, what if you dare to ask for everything you want, and then you get it? I mean, really, think about that. What do you dare not hope or dream for? What is your fondest wish or desire? And what keeps us from asking for it?
And finally, from Wednesday, first, word from the U.S. Census bureau about the ways that the U.S. has changed in 20 years. All along, I've felt that many of the actions we are seeing at the state and national level are the death throes of a way of life, an old white male dominated way of life, a tradtionalist way of life. Nothing against tradition and older white males, but they are not the only people in this world. Some people might be scared because life they used to know has changed, but there is nothing that says they can't change, adapt and prosper, and do so without detriment to the very many people we share this world with. The U.S. has changed greatly in 20 years, and I doubt the ability of even the richest and most powerful to halt the changes. Second, also from the morning after, along similar lines, a reminder from a wise woman I know: two strong women just got added to the State Senate. It's a good thing. Sachi's buttons from last week are prophetic!