We've been at it for weeks now, and today brought some of the greatest rewards of the entire effort for me. 4 more signatures were all I had after a morning of "call & chase", the latest operational mode of our local gathering of activists, but the feeling of doing something of real value became stronger than ever. We know we've "made it" already – signature-wise, that is. But we're not done, not until we've given that chance to be a part of this communal occasion to everyone possible.
Early in November my friend, who's fighting cancer, kicked me out. I'd been helping her through the first round of chemo, and had become nearly a permanent part of her household in the process. But what she really wanted was the chance to participate in something important, but which her schedule would not allow. With her strength regained, she sent me home with clear marching orders to "Get that s.o.b. out of the Governor's office!"
In the past few weeks here in the rural Central Sands of Wisconsin, a fresh coalition of normally low-key progressive activists has stepped up to do what has taken this traditionally conservative area by surprise. We've become regular fixtures in the higher traffic areas with our home-brew signs and clipboards. To understand the significance of how odd this is, consider that our home county is known for having a total of exactly one (1) intersection with traffic lights, right in the middle of the biggest community - the only city in the county, with a population of about 1,500. But then, there's also no Wal-Mart!
The occasional flip-off or "get a job" drive-by pales in comparison to the many thanks we've all received, and I've even accepted a couple gifts of home-made Christmas cookies or hot coffee. The outpouring of appreciation keeps us going strong in any weather. This ain't Madison or Milwaukee kind of numbers, but we do our small part.
Yet we didn't just think in terms of how insignificant the 10th least populated county out of this state's 72 is, and feel satisfied with those efforts. We opened a recall office – right here in sight of the local police department, the city hall and the fire department (one small single-story municipal building), just down the street from those isolated traffic lights. How it happened is complicated and even a bit messy, but came to be out of generosity and determination, and now it's there for all 15,000 county residents to behold, like it or not. We still hit the streets and highways, while an ever-expanding crew of volunteers staffs our new base of operations, and a tip jar and donated recall paraphernalia for walk-in signers helps pay for the heat and the ads. More people giving more chances to participate.
But even an office isn't accessible for everyone, and everyone should have a chance. So it was for the 3rd of my 4 signers today. With my colleague in the passenger seat making phone calls from a list of likely participants living in the village nearest to my home, a short list considering that barely 500 people live here, I drove to and made the house calls. Most had already signed, we got a few good responses and a few bad ones. One address had no phone number, which isn't too unlikely when you see the modest nature of the homes here. Sure, I'll do a cold call. I'm here, right?
A thin layer of fresh snow revealed that nobody had been in or out or used the car since last evening, and it was almost noon by now. The barking told me that someone knew I was approaching, but it had no angry sound. A sign on the front door warned to be cautious of oxygen tanks on the premises. Soon after knocking, a frail-looking man opened up a bit with his black lab, still barking, at his side. I could see the tubes strung to his nose. I introduced myself, said that I was from the township, and told him what I was doing there.
It took this gentle man nearly a full five minutes to fill in the petition information, and we talked of the snow, the unusually warm weather, and fishing on the pond hidden way back in the village. It was actually me talking, mostly, as the man had to close the vent at the base of his neck with a finger to speak. But his words were kind and thankful, as were the tongue-lickings and tail-beatings I was receiving from the lab leaning hard against me. I felt at ease with this friendly pair, both of whom must see few visitors.
The man said he thought he had little chance of signing the recall, with his condition leaving him mostly house-bound. But he knew full well what was going on in Wisconsin, and the impact it was having on his neighbors, who he wanted to help. He was visibly elated to have that chance, to be able to participate, to be able to help. I think we'll both remember that visit as a significant event in this process, and in the conduct of our lives.
And that's what we do. That's actually all that we do in this recall. We give a chance to those who want it, or who need it in some way. And that's quite enough for me.
Fri Dec 23, 2011 at 10:56 AM CT: This is such a caring and inspiring community. Here's what's going on:
After a celebratory breakfast of potato pancakes (let there be no bounds), I warmed up the car and paid another visit to this man. As it turns out, he has no valid Wisconsin drivers' license, but does have a U.S. Military I.D., valid for voting under the new voter-suppression laws here. As it is with most people, he prefers to go to the polls in person on voting day. There are relatives who usually take him to the Village Hall, about a half mile away. I asked, and it's o.k. for me to check that this is done for him just prior to the upcoming election to remove radicalism from the head of Wisconsin's government.
Thanks to all of you who care so deeply.