I didn’t realize until this morning that the AFL-CIO has started to call the mob action in Wisconsin the “Cheddar Revolution.” That word comes to me via the “On Faith” column in the Washington Post, where Chicago Theological Seminary student and UCC member Wendy Cooper demonstrates why, in general, it’s inadvisable for M.Div students to write for public consumption:
Walking through the dense crowd of protesters inside the Capitol building in Madison, Wisconsin on day 3 of what is now being called the “Cheddar Revolution,” I was struck by the identification of the crowd with the people of Egypt, despite the stark differences between their circumstances.
The demonstrators in Madison, WI don’t look much like the demonstrators in Egypt. They come from the heart of conventional middle class America gathered by the thousands, with a strong sense of elementary school classroom etiquette at work. After all, public school teachers were a major group present. When quiet was needed among the thousands of protesters, fingers went up in the air – and magically the classroom technique of bringing quiet worked throughout the vast rotunda of Capitol building.
But what has reminded me, as a Protestant religious leader, of Tahrir Square is the looks on the people’s faces. People here are extremely determined and somewhat awestruck as well by their numbers and their determination. There is the same sense of revelation among the protesters. While comparisons between Governor Scott Walker and Hosni Mubarak were humorous, the mood among protesters was deadly serious. And the connection with the Egyptian people went deeper than simply sharing the act of protest.
I didn’t know that being an M.Div student made one a “Protestant religious leader,” but what do I know–maybe she’s a grand poobah in the UCC. What’s really striking is that she swallows hook, line, and sinker the “identification” between the Egyptians struggling for freedom against a dictatorial regime and Wisconsin public employee unions desperately trying to hold on to the privileges that elevate them above the peons in the private sector. If I were an Egyptian, I’d be insulted by the American left trying to hijack my revolution.
Oh, and about those “humorous” comparisons between Walker and Mubarak (and a certain other historical figure), Ed Morrissey at Hot Air put up some of those on Saturday. A couple I can’t even put here because of their obscenity, but here’s a sample of the “humor” (call it the “new civility”) that been in evidence on the streets of Madison:
Very funny. Cooper goes on to say:
For many people around the world it might be hard to imagine the American middle class needing revolution or liberation. Yet, a veil has been pulled back from before the eyes of many middle class Americans in Madison, who suddenly seem to understand their vulnerability in a new way.
Yep, those Cheesehead unionists are in mortal danger of being treated…the way public employee unions are treated in Virginia. See, you’d get the impression from the brave souls up in Madison that they are the only thing standing between the plutocratic state and slavery. In fact, the collective bargaining abilities granted to Wisconsin PEUs are among the most powerful in the country, and what Walker has proposed is scaling them back so that they look more like the standards that prevail in many other states. But guys like Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO and Andy Stern of the Service Employees International Union think like fundamentalist Muslims–once you given up a piece of ground to them, it is theirs forever, and to the devil with the consequences. So no matter what current economic conditions call for, no matter how costly the stranglehold unions have on states might be, the citizenry (which voted for Walker and his platform last November) will have to pry that ground from their cold, dead fingers.
Wendy Cooper, Protestant religious leader, may think she’s supporting some kind of liberation movement, but I suspect that when the voters of Wisconsin get done with them, the public employees unions may wind up bearing more resemblance to this guy:
UPDATE: Seems we have a growing meme on the left, some elements of which have apparently lost all ability to draw meaningful distinctions when its enthusiasms are at work. Jake Olzen, a graduate student at Loyola University in Chicago, writes at Sojourners:
A week after a shocked world reveled in Egypt’s incredible moment of freedom and people power, Wisconsin is reviving its own unique tradition of people power and creative protest. Follow the latest updates with Mother Jones. Tens of thousands descended upon the state capital in Madison to protest Republican Governor Scott Walker’s legislative proposals to cut collective bargaining rights for public employees. In an attempt to stall the vote from happening (see: quorum), the state’s Democratic senators have refused to show up for work and have fled to Illinois. Gov. Walker, and Republican lawmakers have sent the state police out after the boycotting Democratic senators in an attempt to force a vote to the floor. The Assembly has since been suspended until Tuesday and there is no indication as to whether or not the Democrats will break their strike. Provocative comparisons to the nascent revolutions in the Middle East are already being made by Democracy Now (“Democracy Uprising in the U.S.A.?) and Yes! Magazine co-founder Sarah van Gelder (”Wisconsin: The First Stop in An American Uprising?“).
There’s something pathetic about well-fed, physically safe, and politically free wannabe academics and political activists trying to glom on to the aura surrounding an event like Egypt’s revolution, kind of like the father of a star high school athlete who parades around as if he scored the winning touchdown in the big game rather than his son.
Of course, a piece like this wouldn’t be complete without some pseudo-academic nonsense:
There are indisputable differences between Egypt and Wisconsin. Any serious comparison of Mubarak to Walker lacks mature political understanding. But in terms of people power and nonviolent protest, there are some similarities in both Egypt and Wisconsin — which is why Walker and the power elite find these protests so threatening to their vested interests. Nonviolent action is predicated upon the assumption that the power of a dictator (or any power holder) depends upon the consent of the governed to comply with the directives and requisites handed from above. It is a hierarchical understanding of power. When 80,000 people show up rejecting that paradigm from operating as usual, it sends a shock to the system. Without the people in the streets and the national attention toward the Democratic senators in a Rockford hotel, momentarily becoming an ally to the will of the people, injustice would have continued unabated. This is a monumental moment in people’s movements for equality, justice, and democracy because, after decades of dwindling progressive politics, we are literally witnessing the might of nonviolent people power actually making a difference in our own backyard. We are experiencing new life being breathed into democracy from the bottom.
So…the public union employees carrying obscene placards making ridiculous comparisons and trumpeting cliches is “nonviolent people power,” expressing “the will of the people,” breathing “new life…into democracy,” but the vote last November that put Scott Walker and his platform into power, and turned the Wisconsin legislature over to Republicans for the first time in years, was just the working of the plutocracy, I guess. The truth is that this kind of thinking is profoundly anti-democratic, essentially pretending that the loudest, most obnoxious voices are more authentic expressions of popular will than elections.