I grew up in a household where, though the UFW's grape boycott ended in 1970, a decade before I was born, I didn't eat a grape until I started school. Unionism, labor activism and the vital necessity of solidarity with our brothers and sisters around the world was the closest thing to a religion I ever had. Of course, like many people, I could never quite swallow my utopian socialist father's teachings whole. Despite brief, college-and-whiskey fueled flirtations (complete with college-and-whiskey fueled heavy petting and premature ejaculation) with Communism, Maoism (apparently, there's an audio recording somewhere out there of me declaring, "Mao was totally hot!"), anarchism, syndicalism and just general, you know, like, radicalism, man!, I've emerged from the other end a pretty traditional liberal.
But on the issue of unions, Father Gibson and I will always agree. Unions are good for workers, they're good for business and they remain virtually the only force standing between working people and utter serfdom. If America is a great nation, as I believe it is, the labor movement deserves a very big chunk of the credit.
All of which means that every image and story about the beautiful protests in Wisconsin fills my heart with love and awe and joy. And the fact that the brother of one of my most loyal and cruel warlords is a Wisconsin teacher only doubles these emotions.
In a way, it's a strange feeling. I don't like protests. The last one I went to ended with a baby getting pepper-sprayed in the face, which, though clearly hilarious, was also so symbolic of the ways in which protesters, counter-protesters and the police all behave like stupid fucking assjammers that I just left feeling sick and dazed. And not just by the tear gas.
And over the last couple of years our chief images of protests have come from the Tea Party rallies, with all their bizarre antics and wild-eyed demon-creatures and Michelle Malkins.
As a pretty typical overthinking intellectual, this troubles me. Is it simply a matter of bias: that because I disagree with the Tea Partiers they seem completely insane and high on PCP? Or does my natural affection for unions and big, sweaty, sexy Teamsters blind me to the same hysteria in a slightly different pitch?
But I think the answer to both questions is no. The biggest difference between these two movements is that the Tea Party just seems to be angry, like, in general. "Jesus Christ, we're just ragin', okay?!" It's an inchoate, disturbed sort of movement, the kind of shapeless anger at "the Government and stuff" that, while probably as necessary to cultural and political health as lancing a super nasty boil is to physical health, is most useless.
But in Wisconsin we see brave and hopeful and angry people standing up for something real, specific and vital. Governor Walker's attack on collective bargaining rights for public employees, while cloaked in something approaching a vague resemblance to something we might generously describe as reasonable, strikes at the very hard of more than a century's worth of struggle to make our world more fair and to return to workers some share of the wealth they create. To let the government destroy one union is to let it destroy them all. And that, dear friends, is not something this demented and syphilitic despot is willing to let happen.
Already Walker's popularity is dropping, his attempts to blame the unions for the budget crisis are failing and if those threatened layoffs come to pass it is the governor who deserves the blame.
So keep it at it, all you beautiful motherfuckers in Wisconsin!
PS: this was supposed to be a humorous and light-hearted post about all the Koch-inspired signage in Madison. The title of the post comes from a sign witnessed by David Weigel, who has a very fine piece of the context of non-violence in labor rallies, and the relative difficulty of filming gotcha moments at them, in Slate. Somewhere else, I think on the aforementioned teacher-friend's Facebook page, I saw another sign reading "Scott Walker is high on Koch." The latter of these signs is more likely to have been penned by an English teacher, since it preserves the Koch brothers' preferred pronunciation, but y'all know that I'm the kind of guy who refers to former New York Mayor Ed Koch as "the Kochsucker", so pronunciation is never a bar to me making dicksucking jokes.