Friday, May 13, 2011

Disillusioned and Disheartened by Democracy (two emails)

Dear Governor Walker,

If you have been listening-- which, as an elected official, it is your duty-- you have not only heard the countless criticisms of your “Budget Repair Bill,” but also the proposed solutions and concessions that workers and allies have made and are willing to make in order to knit our state back together in a way that simultaneously balances the budget and respects the professions and rights of tens of thousands of hard-working, deserving public servants.

If you have been listening, I presume you have taken the time to devise a logical, reasonable explanation for the  measures you intend to take to reduce the state deficit--that in the course of your consideration, drastically reducing the labor rights of Wisconsin workers, your constituents, your colleagues, your neighbors, your allies in keeping Wisconsin the great state it is, is an absolute last resort.  If this is, indeed, the case, please share it with the masses of distraught people who have become disillusioned and disheartened by democracy, the basis and core value for which our state and nation was built—I am one of them. 

If it is a fact that you have been listening, which I presume you have, then I have nothing new to say that will make you change your mind,  because I have a difficult time putting into words the frustration, sadness, and disturbance I am feeling in the wake of your obstinate stance in negotiating more reasonable terms with our state's public workers. 

I am not a public sector employee.  I am not a union member.  I am not a Republican.  I am not a Democrat.  I am, however, an educator; I am the daughter of two public employees who, for decades, have proudly, dutifully, and whole-heartedly served the greater good of society in the Department of Workforce Development and Wisconsin Public Schools.  I am an exemplary product of public institutions which have shaped me into the critical, compassionate, purposeful member of society I am today—just ask my teachers.  I am the classmate and friend of countless fellow educators next to whom I was taught and who continually teach me.  I am a proud Wisconsinite; I am a voter; I am a tax-payer; I am an American who wholeheartedly believes that a democratic government should grant equal opportunity to its people, even if it can’t ensure an equal outcome of results.  I stand in solidarity with these people to uphold our state and nation’s values.

In good faith and democratic process, the majority of your constituents have elected you to represent and act upon their opinions.  At the very least, all voters, not just the majority, should rightfully expect elected leaders to be mindful of our best interests when making decisions.  To silence the voices of tens of thousands of constituents by nature of scrupulosity and an unwillingness to collaborate with us to problem-solve and find common ground does not uphold this basis for democracy, or for that matter, any form of diplomacy.  Please don’t let us down.
Marcy Berenschot
Wauwatosa, WI

Number two. . .
Our governor's criticism that our democratic senators need to "come back to work" upsets me beyond measure. Hearing, representing, and acting upon the opinions of tens of thousands of people is, above all, exactly what we, their constituents, have elected them to do. Drastic means call for drastic measures.  They are what is keeping our government hanging on this thin, wavering thread of democracy as it risks the threat of fraying into oligarchy.  My education and experiences have had me disillusioned by politics, the government, and the meaning of this word for some time now; the fact that I can overtly see glimmers of it in actions such as these restores my faith, albeit just a little, in the type of government we proudly, though too often falsely, proclaim to be. 

 As for the protesting teachers and other union members, we are acting upon a democratic freedom of which every citizen is entitled in this country.  Regardless of profession, beliefs, or party lines, simmering in outraged compliance does not fulfill this freedom, nor is it healthy for people on an individual or state level.  It's a fact in this country that the loudest mouths get the most airplay; as a teacher myself, I have experienced this truth firsthand.  However, it saddens and disturbs me that tens of thousands of people must shout, chant, bang drums, leave their jobs, write letters, make phone calls, and even travel from out of state in order to be heard.  It is truly a reflection of our leader's obstinance and pertinacity, but also of the people's fortitude and conviction.  Some argue we are shouting at the expense of students. This, then, is a contiguous and difficult lesson-- as life's greatest, most impacting lessons tend to be-- in the adage we have come to lovingly adopt and boast since the inception of our nation and into which our roots sink deeply: "freedom is not free".

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