It's officially Autism Awareness Month and I am determined to blog more regularly, and stick to the topic at hand. But first, I must explain my absence - from this blog and from just about every other important task that I have neglected for about six weeks now!
Living in Madison, Wisconsin (since 2004) has been a very positive experience, full of stimulating, exciting opportunities. And then sometimes it gets even more so. I will try to keep this as concise and nonpolitical as I can. It won't be easy.
Our newly elected governor, Scott Walker, has launched some very controversial budget proposals in an effort to regain some fiscal control. Starting back on Monday, February 14, a group of teaching assistants from the University have been doing everything within their power to call attention to some of the possible problems associated with these proposals. On that particular day, there was a march up State Street, from campus to Capitol, to deliver piles of valentines to the governor, saying "We (HEART) Governor Walker." They were trying to get his attention in a "nice" way. And I am trying so hard here to be "nice" myself - How am I doing?
Things moved rapidly from there and very soon the entire Capitol building had been taken over by the people of the state, drumming, chanting, singing, and shouting to be heard. A very brave group of 14 Democratic senators fled the state and stayed away long enough for the rest of us to catch up on what was happening and learn just what was included in the budget "repair" bill being proposed. Police and fire department members showed their support. Farmers drove their tractors to Madison and then around the Capitol square. Diverse groups of union members (and those who support them), disability advocates, families from all over the state and people of all ages have banded together to make a statement with regard to the drastic cuts facing our state.
I live just six short blocks (but it IS uphill part of the way!) from the Capitol and being the very curious person I have always been - plus the political junkie I have become in my retirement - I have been a regular visitor, checking out the action several times each week. I have been there among tens of thousands of demonstrators, and was there early one morning when only a few people were silently meditating on the floor of the rotunda. I have been there with two of my grandkids. I have been there when the doors were open to all, when the doors were locked to everyone, and most recently when one or two doors are open to the public and everyone is required to go through a metal detector, empty pockets, even get "wanded" if there's any question about what's setting off the alarms.
I will be heading there soon to join a dedicated group of people who are singing daily in the rotunda - an inspiring repertoire of union songs, protest songs (from way back in the 60's. I love it!!)and specially adapted lyrics to fit the current situation. Because it is spring, the demonstrators are now joined regularly by school groups on field trips and the common chant of "This is what democracy looks like" seems particularly appropriate as they visit to see how state government operates. There is no more drumming, but people use their car keys as accompaniment. Signs can no longer be taped to the walls, but they can be held in hands, propped against the pillars, or spread out on the floor for observers on upper levels to clearly see. The earlier food stations, information station, family care, first aid, sleeping bags, etc have all been banned - and I must say I miss them. It all added so much to the atmosphere. But the spirit remains, and is as strong as ever.
I will be checking on a man who is on a hunger strike. If I haven't lost track, today is Day #28 for him. He is only drinking water and taking potassium tablets, and says he is prepared to die if that's what it takes to bring this all to a halt. I first noticed him when he was on Day #10, spoke to him briefly one day last week, am following his blog, and cannot get him out of my mind.
In the early days, it was the drumming that stayed with me day and night (and not just when I was actually present at the Capitol - I heard and felt it as I fell asleep at night and when I awoke in the morning). Then it was the singing that stayed with me, and now it's concern for Matt's well-being. As passionate as I have become over the various issues we are dealing with, I don't want him to die. I don't want him to go on with this. And yet, I have the deepest respect and admiration for the courage he is showing and the statement he is making.
Tomorrow - back to Autism!