I have no good excuse for not having followed events in Libya, Bahrain, and Wisconsin as closely as I ought. Both events, popular uprisings against a repressive executive bent on crushing the rights of citizens, highlight the ability of regular people to stand together in solidarity.
I’ve watched in awe as Libyans braved aerial strafing and artillery barrages, as pilots and warship captains defected to foreign nations rather than fire in protesters, and as a people oppressed for 40 years take back their country against unspeakable odds and against astonishing brutality. It’s stunning to see Bahrainis holding their ground after state security forces massacre their comrades in the night.
And in Wisconsin, the protesters may face less brutal tactics, but the brilliant phone call from a journalist imitating teabagger-in-chief David Koch to Wisconsin governor Scott Walker shows that things could have degenerated easily. The governor considered sending violent agents provocateurs into the peaceful crowds that occupied the capitol during the state’s legislative crisis. And an Indiana deputy attorney general actually suggested sending police in with “live ammunition”, though he was later fired for the offense. That the idea even came up informally with these Republican leaders suggests that American politics are not as far as we’d like from Gadhafi’s violence against his own people.
Nor did Scott Walker’s unhinged “fireside chat” diffuse that impression. He trotted out the same lines Gadhafi and Mubarak tested before being forced from power: the protests are driven by outside protesters, their demands are unreasonable and unpatriotic, the good people of Egypt/Libya/Wisconsin know that Mubarak/Gadhafi/Walker knows what’s best for them, etc. And he managed to look crazier and less competent than Michelle Bachman while doing it.
And through all this, protesters in the streets have stood firm. They know what’s right, and they will not go home until their government treats them as they deserve. I couldn’t be prouder of my people, whether they wear cheeseheads or eat bazeen. We’re witness to something amazing, a justification for the humanism I usually must justify as faith: “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” But now I see, and I hope you do, too.