“…of thee I sing.”

Okay. Today I’m going to do something I really shouldn’t.

Today I’m going to talk about politics.

I’m going to do this the same way I do everything. I’m going to tell a couple of stories.

The first story:

This last Thursday, I did a reading and signing in Columbus. Despite the fact that I’d only scheduled it about two weeks ahead of time, about 200 people showed up. Thanks for that, by the way, it made me look good.

Whenever I do one of these, it’s really a reading interspersed with a lot of Q&A. I do this because reading off a page for an hour can be exhausting for both me and the audience. But Q&A tends to be more fun. Interactive.

So, the Q&A was going pretty well. I read some stuff, answered some questions, got some laughs.

Then someone says, “What are your thoughts about all the political stuff that’s been going on in Wisconsin? I notice you haven’t talked about it on your blog.” (I’m paraphrasing a bit here.)

The question surprised me. A big part of the reason I haven’t talked about this on my blog is that I’ve been thinking of our troubles in Wisconsin as a local issue. But this question, asked by someone two states away, made me realize that a fair number of people are watching Wisconsin today. It’s not a local issue.

(If you don’t know what’s going on here in Wisconsin, you can read about it here.)

So I said, “Well, here’s the thing. I really shouldn’t talk about politics. Professionally speaking, it’s just not smart….”

Then I talked about politics.

There’s no real excuse for it, except to say that I was operating on one hour of sleep at the time. And I have an odd compulsion that when people ask me honest questions, I feel compelled to give them honest answers.

I can’t remember exactly what I said. I remember talking about what the true purpose of government is. About what’s wrong with the country. I went on for about 3-4 minutes, and I’m pretty sure I swore more than just a little. At one point, I remember pounding on the table.

At the end of it, folks applauded.

Despite the fact that it seemed to go over well, I felt guilty about it. Like I’d done something irresponsible. It bugged me all night.

But after thinking about it all weekend, I realized a few things.

1. I like saying true things.

2. If I say true things, and it makes people angry. I think I’m okay with that.

3. We can’t be afraid to talk about politics. Talking is the only way that we can make things better in this country. And things need to get better. Our country is teetering on the verge of the howling abyss, if you haven’t noticed.

The second story:

About a month ago, I was hanging out with some friends when the conversation strayed into politics. While chatting, one of the folks sitting around the table mentioned that he’d voted for Scott Walker in the primary.

Now on most subjects, my group of friends is more than happy to live and let live. Differing opinions are welcome. “You’re Christian? Cool, I’m Taoist. Want to talk about that, or should we go play some Catan instead?”

But for someone to say they voted for Walker in the primary. That is to say, they voted for him *after* all the things he’s done this last year. That’s not like mentioning you like cool ranch Doritos instead of nacho. It’s more like like saying, “I’m actually a big fan of female genital mutilation.”

All around the table there was stunned silence.

“Seriously?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he said.

And I could tell that everyone was going to fall on him like angry dogs. Not only were things going to get ugly, but they were going to get so ugly as to ruin our day, and possibly some friendships too.

So I quickly said, “I veto this conversational topic.”

My sister who was sitting next to me said, “Agreed.”

(This is a rule we have at our house. Everyone gets one conversational veto. It’s a good rule to have when a bunch of passionate people are gathered together, as it helps keep friction to a minimum.)

So the conversation moved on from there, and we all had a pleasant afternoon.

But the truth was, I was really bothered by the fact that my friend was voting for Walker. I wasn’t bothered by the fact that his vote was different from my vote. That shit happens. But this person is generous. He’s a social progressive. He believes in equal rights.

So why on earth would he be voting for Walker?

So I did my homework. I spent about 5-6 hours gathering resources and verifying facts.

All the while, I dreaded the thought of the upcoming conversation. This was one of my good friends, you see. I didn’t want to ruin our relationship.

Then I asked if he would mind talking about the upcoming election. “Could you just give me 15 minutes?” I asked. “There are a couple things I’d like to bring to your attention if you don’t already know about them.”

He agreed, and we went somewhere comfy to sit.

I said, “Do you know that…”

I said, “Do you know that…”

  • Scott Walker repealed Equal Pay Enforcement Act? (A bill that had protected employees from being discriminated against based on race, age, disability, religion, sexual orientation or other factors.)
  • Scott Walker tried to push a voter registration law into effect before the recall?
    • And that Judge Richard Niess ruled against it, saying that it was unconstitutional?
  • Scott Walker tried to push through new mining legislation?
  • Scott Walker has taken steps toward privatizing deer hunting and selling off public lands, such as state parks.

I said, “Do you know that Walker has cut money to education. He’s pushed for cuts to health care programs like BadgerCare that would deprive over 60,000 people coverage? About 30,000 of those being kids from poor families?”

I looked up from my notebook, “I could go on,” I said. “There’s a lot more. I haven’t even started about the dodgy stuff they’ve been doing to mislead people. There’s a lot of corporate fuckery going on. Fake statistics and lies and such…”

Then my friend said, “I actually didn’t know all that.”

We talked for about an hour and a half. And he admitted that he hadn’t done very good research on his own. Most of his info had come from political ads. And because Walker has huge corporations donating to him, he can kinda buy all the ads he wants….

In the end, he said he wasn’t going to vote for Walker after all. And he thanked me for taking the time to have a talk with him.

*     *     *

The truth is this: the bullshit going on here in Wisconsin has been making it hard for me to sleep at night. I’m not exaggerating. I actually lie awake in bed with a tight knot in my stomach, worrying about this. My friends are losing their jobs, their health insurance. Oot is losing his chance at a good education and a healthy environment to play in.

Simply said, I am sick with worry. It’s going to wreck me if Walker stays in after everything he’s done. I’m going to be an absolute shambles for months.

I don’t know if my writing this down might help clue someone in. But it’s all I can do. I just have to post it and hope.

I’m hoping if you live in Wisconsin and you weren’t planning on voting today, this will get you up off your ass. This is important.

If you were thinking of voting for Walker, I’m hoping you might reconsider, based on some of these facts.

Lastly and most importantly, I’m hoping that I can encourage y’all to talk to each other about your political beliefs. It’s a terrifying thing to do, because emotions run high on these topics.

But the only way things will ever get better is if we all become better informed, then get involved.

*     *     *

Voting is TODAY, people. I’ve already cast my ballot.

So go. Do it. And remember, you can vote even if you’re not registered. You can vote even if you don’t have a photo ID.

Get all the details HERE, including where you go to vote.

Please, Wisconsin. Please.

pat

This entry was posted in things I shouldn't talk about. By Pat201 Responses

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