Curmudgeon's Corner

cur-mud-geon: anyone who hates hypocrisy and pretense and has the temerity to say so; anyone with the habit of pointing out unpleasant facts in an engaging and humorous manner

At The Epicenter...

Wisconsin, Political, Quality of Life

We are at the epicenter on Tuesday, June 5th.  The eyes of our nation will be turned toward Wisconsin as we go to the polls to cast our votes in the recall election, just as they have been trained on us for months.

We have been at the epicenter for many months since recall elections at the level of Governor are most unusual.  We have not always comported ourselves to cast the best light on our state, although we have probably demonstrated just how scrappy a Badger can be when it is defending what it sees as it’s rights.  To be fair, we have had a lot of people from many states who have decided this battleground needed to be tended to by them since they ‘had a dog in the fight.’  There have been many out-of-state labor organization members on-the-ground since February.  Many of those gathering signatures couldn’t have told you the name of the street a block away since they didn’t live here.

As is usual, there have been two distinct sides (often with multiple factions involved on each side) and those sides have been very agitated.  The canyon between the two sides has been well-maintained; it has been made so broad as to defy attempts to bring the sides closer to each other.  Many of us have become quite aware of what we can or cannot discuss when in mixed groups without the risk of alienating friends or relatives.  Some of us, though unfortunate, have seized on this ‘opportunity’ to work earnestly to further spread the broad divide between the two groups.  There are those among us who seem to believe that the loudest voice always wins the argument, when, in fact, the loud voice often is responsible for killing reasonable discussions so that no one “wins” the argument.

Living at the epicenter is quite different from observing the epicenter from afar.  The strain of being at the epicenter has taken tolls on many relationships, even between family members in addition to friends.  Once we let anger take control of the words we say, we have lost the ability to maintain the relationships we managed to taint.  We may be able to rebuild some of those relationships but others will remain broken.

Being at the epicenter also tends to bring out the worst in some of us.  Too often it seems we don’t need much of an excuse to ‘have at it’ verbally.  In the heat of passion, things are said that would not otherwise have been uttered.  In the anonymity of the written word on blog postings, things are written that would not otherwise have been written.  I have wondered if blogs would actually survive if all who post were required to make their true identities known.  That requirement might well tame the blogs down to the point no one would have interest enough to keep readership where it needs be.

There is also a degree of anonymity when one is involved in a crowd, and that makes for some people thinking they can do and say anything they choose without fear of being identified as having done so.  That ‘mob mentality’ was on display for all to see in Madison inside and outside the Capitol building.  I must be careful to point out that not every person involved was guilty of that behavior, but by being in the group they are thought to have been willing participants.  My military training during the riots in Milwaukee helped me to understand that anonymity within mobs can be that which creates the ‘flash point’ that erupts into ugly confrontations.  The anonymity coupled with a handful of people intent in creating the riotous result causes that flame to become a roaring fire very quickly.

So, we have come to what should be the end of this tortuous path; we have come to the day before the recall election in Wisconsin.  There might be people re- elected and there might be people un-elected.  If the races are close enough, there might well be another recount or two or three.  I hope that the elections will be sufficiently clear to avoid recounts, since we really need to begin the healing process and get back to doing the business of the state…without anyone, Republican or Democrat, feeling the need to hide in Illinois.

As I’ve stated before, I believe we need better Constitutional definition of what is or isn’t proper conduct (or misconduct) that would qualify a person to be required to stand for a recall vote rather than to simply remain in office until the next normal election date when he or she could be rejected if the majority thought that necessary.

I am not such a Pollyanna as to believe that we will ever be the same after this recall election as we were before.  Once such a ‘genie’ is out of the lamp, it cannot be returned.  Generations will have to pass before this simply becomes a matter of history such as the riots in Kohler decades ago, or the martial law declared in a large part of Milwaukee decades ago.

The innocence we enjoyed in the eyes of much of our nation simply is gone; Wisconsin will be remembered for this recall election for many years to come…and we Wisconsinites will not, in some instances, be seen as necessarily good examples to be emulated.     

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