Wisconsin revisited

Wisconsin — my natal state.

Early 20th century: Home of Robert LaFollette and Progressive Republicans, who “…sought to restrict the power of corporations when it interfered with the needs of individual citizens.”  Did you know that?  I just have the name “Bob LaFollette” bouncing around in my head from childhood; didn’t know the good stuff.

Today: If you’re making a home-made protest T-shirt in Wisconsin to wear into the legislature in order to sit quietly in the gallery, make sure to *sew* rather than pin or tape your sign to your clothing, else you risk arrest.

You can watch a short video of:

  • police in the gallery and at a committee meeting speaking to and removing citizens who are sitting quietly
  • Democratic legislators castigating what’s going on, including one who prints T-shirts, he says, so he knows that an 8.5″ x 11″ piece of paper is approximately the same size as the message on a typical T-shirt .  “We wouldn’t kick someone out for having a T-shirt, but we’re kicking someone out for having a piece of paper the size of a T-shirt buttoned to their T-shirt.”
  • Democratic legislators using their right to speak in order to “strongly object,” but not walking out, choosing to protest en masse, or anything else.
  • Republican legislators off-camera agreeing, “Yes, we need 10 officers at taxpayer expense to deal with people who are quietly sitting there with something in their lap or pinned to their T-shirts.”
  • One protester explaining that “what saved me from being arrested today was a yard of thread.”

On the other hand!  Keep on pinning those signs to your T-shirts, because the medium is the message.

Step by step the longest march / Can be won, can be won.
Many stones can form an arch / Singly none, singly none.
And together what we will can be accomplished still
Many drops can turn a mill /Singly none, singly none.
(Adaptation of an old union song.  See here for its tangled history according to Pete Seeger — click on “Joe Offer.”  The adaptations are the word “together” instead of “by union,” and “Many drops” instead of “Drops of water” … just because I first heard it in college on a tape someone gave me, adapted as a bridge in “Toast for an Unknown Hero,” a “filk song,” a science fiction “folk” song, and that’s how it sings in my head.  I did restore the word “mill” instead of the “moon” of the filk song — the break in the rhyme scheme was always an irritant.  Sweet Honey in the Rock recorded it — you can hear a clip  — look for “Step by Step.”)
Can we be like drops of water falling on the stone,
Splashing, breaking, dispersing in air,
Weaker than the stone by far, but be aware
That as time goes by, the rock will wear away.
And the water comes again…
(Words by Holly Near, music by Meg Christian)

Can we be like a yard of thread?