Out in the Street

By Miryam Ehrlich Williamson

Solidarity with Wisconsin workers rally, Greenfield, Mass., March 12, 2011.

The more of us that show up at rallies and demonstrations, the sooner we’ll get our country back.

Libya to the contrary notwithstanding, it may be a little easier to get people out in the streets to overthrow a dictator than to defeat a legislature that promotes union busting, unbridled capitalism, and corporate greed. The Egyptian netroots planned quietly for two years before they showed up in Tahrir Square. Then it took them a scant three weeks to get Hosni Mubarak to go bye-bye. We Americans don’t have two years, and we’re not given to being quiet. Our way has got to be public — very, very public — and noisy, even to the point of being obnoxious.

We have to take to the streets, raise our voices, and demand the ouster of the people too afraid of their paymasters to make them pay taxes. These are the people who blame Barack Obama for the wastrel ways of his predecessor, may his name be forgotten, who took the Clinton budget surplus and turned it into a historic budget deficit.  They are the ones who let the banksters and monumental cheats of the financial district plunder the savings of parents and grandparents so their descendants have no chance living the American dream , no chance at all of financial security.

The taxes the nation’s largest corporations and billionaires don’t pay could erase the budget deficit in a wink, but no one in Washington — no one, from the White House on down — has the fortitude and conviction to acknowledge that fact. So instead we have the parties of Tweedledee and Tweedledum pretending that the deficit is caused by poor people who would like to heat their homes and feed their children, and by elders who have the nerve sometimes to get sick and need to see a doctor.

So it comes down to us, as many as possible of the 98% of Americans who eat the scraps left by the obscenely rich, whose real incomes haven’t increased more than a pittance since the 1980s when Ronald Reagan came to the White House to trickle down on us, to get out in the streets and shout, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.”  And mean it.

Somewhere between 100,000 and 150,000 people were on the streets surrounding the State House in Madison, Wisconsin, on Saturday doing exactly that. Likely a similar number were on the streets in cities and towns across America. It’s going to happen again, and again, and again. Rallies and demonstrations are planned for weekends and weekdays on into the spring. I’ll be bringing you as much information about them as I can get my hands on. It’s going to be up to you to get where you need to be. Nobody can take your place.  They’ll be taking their own places.

During the Egyptian uprising, I wondered how all those people could manage to take that much time off from work and school and be present in Tahrir all day. Over the weekend I found this out: Those who could, a much smaller number, held onto the square during the day and kept gateways open so that as people got out of school or off from work they could get back in. The masses we saw were there during lunch hour or after work. Life went on, people did the work they had to do to feed and house their families. They just sacrificed everything else for a higher purpose. And thus they won.

For a while, Americans let the rich ones and the ones who lick the boots of the rich ones set worker against worker. If you listened to the news on radio or almost all of TV, you had to think it was only teachers who were being assaulted by a Republican governor in Wisconsin whose office was bought and paid for by a billionaire many times over, and who was now paying him back by destroying Wisconsin’s public sector labor unions.

Nobody with two brain cells to make a connection can have any doubt that private unions are next. And nobody can doubt the purpose: kill the unions and then half of the players allowed to give unlimited money to political campaigns (half the players, but far less than half the money) will be extinct. Freedom of speech, the Republican dominated Supreme Court has said, belongs to corporations and unions. Without unions, the corporations that pay no taxes today will be able to raid the US treasury at will. Forever.

Once working/middleclass Americans caught on to what the rich scum were up to, they realized that anyone who gets a paycheck, or used to before our jobs went down the toilet or overseas, is at the mercy of said scum and their legislative lackeys. Wisconsin police and firefighters, craftily exempted from the union busting bill the governor sponsored, stood next to the teachers, and the guys who paint the lines on the streets, and the ones who pick up the trash. Then, last Saturday, some 50 farmers drove their tractors to Madison and circled the capitol building.

We saw the true meaning of Solidarity Forever. (Video runs 4:13 and is the work of mkemble.)

Also on Saturday, a half hour from my house, in the town where we do our doctoring and shopping, about a hundred people gathered on the town common in support of the workers of Wisconsin.

We sang union songs, and then songs from the civil rights struggles. The two causes aren’t all that different, after all: freedom, self-determination, and a reason to hope things can get better.

Don’t expect — don’t let — others do this for you. Find out where the next rally for your rights will be held and do what it takes to get there. If my husband and I, whose combined ages add up to 162, can do it, so can you.

Get out in the street and make them hear you.

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One Response to “Out in the Street”

  1. [...] the radical right wing of the Republican Party is trying to roll back workers’ rights to the days before Triangle. If you haven’t yet made up your mind about whether it matters to [...]

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