Like many Wisconsinites, I have been following the protests in Madison with a keen eye. I’ve engaged in a few discussions and debates with people, whether they be Republicans, Democrats, or Independents. As it stands, I am rather neutral on the entire subject. This does not mean I am uneducated on the matter; it simply means that I do not have a vested interest in the matter as I am not a public sector worker who is involved in a union or am I a registered member of a political party. This assumes of course that the issue at hand is about unions and not the budget. That would be an entirely different matter altogether…
Anyhow, I work in the Carroll University archives, and my current task at hand is to go through the copies of the Waukesha Freeman and scout out any articles mentioning my lovely institution. As such, I have been reading through the most recent articles in the paper regarding the goings-on in Madison as well as local Shout Outs by people commenting on various issues. I have read these with a keen interest and a growing irritation with how many of these are written in terms of language. Assuming most who write in are fairly educated people, I’ve been rather appalled to find people more or less calling the Democrat senators cowards, degrading the the protesters as animals out to have a good time, and comparing Scott Walker to Hitler and the Imperial Walker (see below).
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. But to read the bashing that goes on back and forth between both sides is frustrating. There is nothing wrong with a good political debate; indeed, a friend and I recently discussed the bill, and it was at that point I became more moderate on the entire thing. There are pros and cons to both sides, and the simple fact of the matter is, no matter what happens, someone is going to be pissed off. It’s the way politics works. The point is, having a public forum is a great way to express opinions and ideas, but to completely tear down the other side without backing up one’s own stance and not supplementing it with research proves that some people out there are all bluff and no substance. Being a history major has taught me, if nothing else, to wield evidence to persuade the other side to at least entertain my ideas. Cutting down the opposition and refusing to see the other side only serves to antagonize, not persuade. You’ll never win over anyone. Hell, look at modern-day evangelists now! I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s seen them on the side of the road, screaming at all passersby that they’re all damned to eternal hellfire. Well, you’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t!!
Seriously though, if you hold a strong opinion on the matter, by all means share it, whether in word or print. But don’t be like the person who wrote this in the Freeman on February 18th:
“Our governor, Scott Walker, is following the same road other dictators have taken in the past. You consolidate your power. You appoint your cronies to head the state police. And then you go after the unions. What’s next with Walker, an invasion of Poland?” (Waukesha Freeman, 18 February 2011)
Opinion? Yes. Informed opinion? No. Worth heeding? Up to you.
There are a myriad of opinions afoot. Some people say Walker is using this bill to get his name on the national circuit, perhaps to seek a presidential nomination in the future. Some say it’s a huge power grab. Some applaud the Democrats for traveling out of state to stall the bill’s voting and passage. Some say the Democrats are running from their responsibilities and will eventually have to face the inevitable. Some say the teachers who called in “sick” (legitimately or otherwise) deserve to be fired because they are not doing right to their duties to children. Some compare Walker to a dictator in his bid for power. Some say that it really is not about the budget but rather the dissolution of unions. Some say that if the strongest union is broken, what’s to prevent Walker from targeting other ones? Some applaud Walker for having a backbone to stand up for his beliefs and will not renege on them while others deride him for not being willing to negotiate with the protesters (when they have already conceded increasing their pay-ins). Some believe that the bill’s passage bodes ill for other sectors of the state, especially education.
Now, it is this last one that has me frightened. I am an independent student making my way through college on scholarships, loans, grants, etc. If the education cuts go through (estimates range from $300 million to $1 billion), then chances are my financial aid will suffer drastically. And if that happens and I can’t keep up with the rising cost of attendance at Carroll, well, myself and possibly many others may not be able to come back. And the cycle of protests will keep going around.
All in all, the Madison protests will continue unabated for a while yet, and I, along with the rest of the state, the nation, and even the world, will watch with baited breath to see what happens. But, dear readers, please be open-minded about it all, no matter if you are Republican, Democrat, Independent, or otherwise. Other opinions matter, not just your own.