So that was a really discouraging night last night. Election results called Scott Walker the winner really early on (illogically so in my opinion) and even though we held out hope for some late reportings, the best we could end up with was his lead narrowed down to 4% of registered voters. When I first tuned in (around 9 pm) and he had over 62% of the vote, I will tell you, quite honestly, I WAS ready to wash my hands of this state. Of course, whatever reasons propel me to leave Wisconsin would also propel me to leave this country. Am I really ready to live in Toronto?
I still feel like I am on the verge of tears, as I felt when I cast my vote, when we ate dinner and toasted the state we love, as I probably will be throughout the next day/week/months when I have to be a cheerful and brave shopgirl. My heart hurts for the state, and I don't see Walker doing a lot to alleviate that. In my dream last night I went on an angry tirade at an old school friend so, yes, I am feeling mad as well. I am frustrated on both the state and the national level that people seem to be making choices based on fear and anger that only reinforce their situation. You want a better life for your children so you vote Republican? I just don't get it.
But here's what I am coming back to. And, yes, some of these are cheesy, we take our comfort where we can.
1. Do you ever remember the movie "Strictly Ballroom"? It was a cheesy movie back from the 90s, from my days of ballroom dance obsession. Anyway, there's some line in there about a life lived in fear is a life half lived. This is my underlying problem with the Tea Party and with much of what is going on around our country: it seems like people are living in fear and anger, that comes with a deep pain of dissatisfaction and frustration in their own lives. In my own opinion, they are directing that fear and anger at the wrong source (and purposefully being led by the actual sources of their pain and poverty to said misdirection). And, of course, we all have fear and pain and disappointment and sorrow. I do not at all mean to dismiss those feelings. I have very real concerns for this state with another four years of Walker (not to mention Vos and Fitzgerald et al). I'm worried about the environment, I'm worried about my customers' take-home pay, I'm worried about school children, I'm worried about the level of vitriol that Walker seems to encourage. I'm worried that all those years of thinking we're so much better than Alabama/Mississippi/Florida is now being paid back in spades as the rest of the country says "what is going on with Wisconsin?! It used to be so great!" Oh, the list goes on. It is so easy to give in to those fears and angers, isn't it? But I'm going to be like that little grandma in "Strictly Ballroom" who says, "you just got to not be scared." I am going to try and take a deep breath and live my loves and my hopes.
This is one of my favorite pieces of text. I find I'm returning to it a lot these days and can tell I will continue to do so:
An old man is teaching his grandson about life. "A fight is going on inside me," he said to the boy. "It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil - he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego." He continued, "The other is good - he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you - and inside every other person, too." The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"
The old man simply replied, "The one you feed."
(I just found out I've been misattributing this to an old Cherokee legend and it turns out it is an old white man (Billy Graham) who originated it. The most irksome thing to me is there are people who call themselves Christian, who probably consider Billy Graham a revered elder, and yet are one of the biggest sources of the hate and fear that I see in this country. But I still think the words are valuable.)
2. Viggo Mortensen, Lord of the Rings. "There's always hope." Hey, whoever your Viggo is, spend some time with him/her. It helps.
3. Back during the protests, customers came from all over the country. A memorable pair came from Illinois and one of them said to me: "I hope your Governor gets what our Governor got: an orange suit." So, yes, there's always that. I expect that Walker will run for President, I don't really expect that he's going to make it through the national spotlight but, golly, let's just savor the thought of something really unsavory and totally illegal coming to light that lands him some prison time, shall we? We take our comforts where we can.
Is it wrong that some of my comforts are fictional? All right, I'll throw some math in.
4. Scott Walker won because of 4% of registered voters. This was not "sweeping" or "decisive" no matter what any pundit says. In the world of math, 4% is usually margin of error. It is not enough to write off an entire state. 30% of registered voters did not vote. That is maddening. I read recently that non-voters tend not to be a representative sample of the population and that they skew Democratic so it is entirely possible that if 10% more had voted, the election could have gone the way I wanted it to. Was this supposed to be comforting? The comfort is that unlike last time, Scott Walker did get 37% of registered voters to vote for him. Last time, fewer people voted for Scott Walker than declined to vote. As a friend said, she can hear the rest of the state saying: "yes, Madison, we really DO want him for Governor." Well, I can hear 37% of the state saying that, and I guess that's not enough to make me leave.
In fact, the more that I think about that, the more comforting it is. 37%? Does that really seem like much? Would I be content if 37% of my customers liked me? I think I'd want more. Granted, I'm pretty sure that Scott Walker translates the math differently and will look upon this election as his "mandate" to go forth and do evil, but, really, 37%.
5. The pendulum. It exists, right? At some point things have to start swinging in the other direction? Wisconsin had McCarthy, we had LaFollette. We have Walker, Johnson, Ryan and Grothman - surely we must be reaching the lowest we can possibly go? The robber barons of the 19th century aren't on a continual line to the present, right? We had a time of expanding social protections, a contract as it was, and people understood that their wealth and prosperity depended on others. We will get that back, right? Just say yes.
6. When all is said and done, there are only about 5 counties in the whole state with such a high percentage of votes for Scott Walker that I would feel really nervous about visiting with my "blue punch" bumper sticker. I already wait to buy gas 'til I'm in Milwaukee county. I think it is easy in this age of polarization to feel like the enemy is everywhere, but so are friends.
7. Conversely, good job, Dane County! Great turnout, and almost 70% of you voted the way I wanted you to vote. I love this little bubble that I live in and I might never leave it.
8. Strong women at work for this state. In the Capitols: Gwen Moore, Terese Berceau, Chris Taylor and more. In our communities. The Wisconsin Alliance for Women's Health. Planned Parenthood. Our Mom and oh so many other women in our life who show us how to be strong and caring and how to work for a better world for all of our children.
9. When I first awoke and thought, "do I have to move now?" I started thinking about all the things and people I will have to move with me: my parents, my sister and her family, my studio/home, my store, my friends, my church, all the people who have known me since I was a child, all of my history. Seriously, packing up all my art supplies to move is a big enough hurdle as it is. I think I'm staying.
10. You. My customers, this store. Being a medium-sized fish in a medium-sized pond. Having people come up to me in the grocery store and saying: "Hi, Anthology! I love your store!" In this day and age, of course it is possible to keep in touch across geographical distance and it would be possible to move if I had to. But that would mean taking a few steps back from as far as we have come. And, actually, in spite of Scott Walker, business is going well. (No, I will not give him credit. Well, if he gets credit for that, then he has to take responsibility for our higher property tax bill, the payments we have to make because of the money the state borrowed from the feds to pay unemployment, the customers who come and and tell me they wish they could spend more but their paycheck isn't going as far as it used to). Sachi reminds me that we will outlast Walker. He will extract what he can from this state and then he will move on. The shop has grown each year that we've been in business and we are having a particularly strong year this year. Strong enough that the Capitalist in me has only been crabby a few times early in a month before she remembers to check the year to date sales. Strong because of our customers making the choice to support their local businesses, strong because of the amazing creative production of artists and crafters in the Midwest and beyond, strong because of people coming back to visit Wisconsin because they love this place. Strong not because of tax breaks (our taxes went up) or whatever else Scott Walker is doing but strong because of the work and passion of my sister and me, because of love and promise, not because of fear and hate.
So, there you go. I hope you will join me in your gratitudes and loves. Since Walker has been in office, we have sold almost 36,000 buttons. Sachi has said we would gladly give back those sales if it meant having someone in office we didn't have to protest but at the rate things are going, it seems like there would have been things to protest no matter what. Just as the morning after the recall election, when I came to work thinking I would have to clear away the buttons, it turns out there's only a small handful that no longer apply. Most still work, unfortunately, and in spades. Thank goodness for button therapy - idle hands are the devil's playground is no more true than in this situation. Plus, I have a proper selection of cards to suit the occasion.