A Prayer for Wisconsin
I will go to sleep tonight, but I will not rest. It will be my eighth fitful night. My state stands at a precipice, and I fear the abyss.
Our governor is pushing a radical agenda he calls modest.
Our unions are proceeding with an extended work stoppage they call necessary.
National media are pulling the sides further apart, hardening the lines to score points and thus money.
My state’s motto: forward.
We are moving: backward.
I grew up here. For all but one year, I’ve worked here my entire career, in both the private and public sectors. These are the things I know about Wisconsin:
1. We work hard. It’s not a conceit. I see it when I visit other states, and I hear it when people employ my students. Wisconsin breeds an unusual work ethic.
2. We are small but think big. We do not number many, but we have achieved much. The “Wisconsin Solution” preserves organs that save lives. The “Wisconsin Idea” transformed the relationship between universities and communities. And the Green Bay Packers routinely upend the idea that big victories rely on big towns and big money.
3. We talk. My German grandmother negotiated with a Jewish tailor over the price of a used suit. My Catholic mother spoke gently with an alcoholic atheist man at a homeless shelter. An elementary student spoke up to a teacher about better ways to run schools. I’ve seen all these moments of deliberation. And I’ve been proud.
I am not proud now. I am not proud a manufactured crisis is being used to push an agenda. I am not proud calcified senses of entitlement have stood in the way of change.
But most of all, I am not proud that we have lost our respect for each other and our willingness to work, to think, to talk.
I have a prayer for Wisconsin as we head into a weekend that may bring great tumult.
I pray we will work. I want teachers to commit to return to classrooms, where students wait. I want legislators to commit to listening to constituents and hammering out compromises that accurately reflect the will of the people, not just those who fund them. I want hardworking Wisconsinites to say goodbye to the well-funded influences from outside our borders who seek to use us for their own callous ends.
I pray we will think big. I want each and every one of us to commit to respect for the view we don’t have. Vilifying public employees? Look next door. There they are. Lambasting your political opponents? Search in your soul. You have a stance that merits objection. Defending your position? Concessions are possible. Find the ground you can cede to save us all.
I pray we will talk and listen. I have been reading, hearing and thinking a great deal this last week. And I do not see us listening. For the first time in my life, I fear our blessing of talk is drowning our responsibility to listen.
– do not buy into a talk-radio host falsely claiming “union thugs”
– do not support a sustained walkout that closes schools
– do not fail to see the burden on the poor that lies beyond cuts to your own interests
– do not succumb to the outside influences descending on our state
My prayer for Wisconsin: Defend who and what we are. This is our moment. Our time to ignore Big Corporate Money and support workers. Our time to ignore Big Unions and work. Our time to ignore speed and take time to talk while listening.
It is our time to believe in FORWARD.
God Bless Wisconsin.