When Republican Governor Scott Walker's union-busting, power-grabbing "bomb" hit Wisconsin last February, it not only forever changed the state's political landscape, it also transformed people's daily lives.
Like many, I reacted first with outrage wrapped in despair. I felt powerless. Isolated. Lost in a society indifferent to justice, or honesty, or compassion. But the broad, roaring response to Walker quickly proved me wrong, and in the sustained efforts to reclaim our state, many new friends discovered untapped abilities -- often finding our surprised selves in roles, and places, we could hardly have imagined before.
As the gubernatorial recall wrapped up last month, I began reflecting on the long, strange trip Walker booked for us all. Below the squiggly thing is a list I first posted to Facebook, recounting some of my unexpected experiences in Fitzwalkerstan.
I hope you enjoy it, and some of the links I've added. I don't intend it even a bit as bragging, which is a mortal sin in the Midwest. Some things were just because I'm not skilled at saying "no" to people who are working 80-hour weeks. I'm no hero. I'm not looking for thanks, and can never think of a reply to that. At most I've made a tiny contribution to an ongoing shared struggle for human dignity and social justice that people elsewhere truly risk their lives for every day. Those folks are the real deal.
What's offered here as my first diary is just for possible entertainment, and in the hope some readers might consider their own opportunities to make a difference.
STUFF DONE IN THE PAST YEAR THAT I NEVER THOUGHT I'D DO
An incomplete list, mostly in chronological order:
* Talked individually with dozens of law enforcement officers on the Capitol Square.
* Created Facebook notes for political purposes.
* In a large crowd of (mostly young) people, shouted "Union! Power!"
* Appeared in background shots of "The Ed Show".
* High-fived members of the United Farm Workers.
* Hugged a firefighter.
* Facebook-friended many people I've never met.
* Ate macaroni-and-cheese pizza bought by strangers from all over the world.
* Became familiar with the Wisconsin Capitol floor plan and gave directions to others.
* Met at least eight Wisconsin legislators.
* Posed for a couple thousand people taking a photo of me with my dog. (He's pack leader of Animals for the Ethical Treatment of People.)
* Baked cupcakes to feed to campaign volunteers.
* Wrote letters to the editors of the Baraboo News Republic and the Capital Times.
* Collected recall signatures on Ho-Chunk tribal land.
* Met wonderful people committed to improving Wisconsin.
* Collected a recall signature from a 22-year-old woman who, I'm pretty sure, was only wearing a bath towel.
* Bought a jacket for my dog so he could wear a sign.
* Joined the Democratic Party.
* Got a close look at how people in my area live, and how their homes are furnished.
* Made hundreds of phone calls to perfect strangers to try to influence their behavior.
* Called friends to ask them to become more politically involved.
* Bought disposable handwarmers by the carton.
* Learned to deflect hostility, and (usually) confound the hostile.
* Knocked on trailer doors in Adams County without knowing who lived there.
* Risked brain damage from making signs with Magic Markers.
* Got up at 3 a.m. to drive to Waupaca and collect petition signatures outside polling places.
* Met amazing, dedicated, hilarious young political activists.
* Recruited campaign volunteers at the Middleton Dog Park.
* Witnessed the delivery of petitions to recall a State Senator.
* Provided supporter housing for a campaign operative.
* Appeared in television commercials, and on a flyer, for a political campaign.
* Bought cases of V-8 juice from Costco for campaign workers.
* Talked politics with Bowzer, from Sha Na Na, and took a photo of him with my dog.
* Had a half-tame squirrel run across my back.
* Was referenced in a Politico story, although they spelled my name wrong and called me a "veteran Democratic field worker".
* Conducted canvasser training for at least a hundred people, including my State Senator.
* Set up an ActBlue page to solicit campaign contributions.
* Contributed what money I could to at least 10 political causes.
* Leaned on my friends to contribute to political causes.
* Camped in Antigo (with my dog) while working on a successful political campaign. Talked with a 95-year-old man who told me of course he was voting to keep his Democratic State Senator in office, and he'd go to the polls on his way home from work.
* Solicited and helped haul a donated refrigerator for a campaign office.
* Signed out petitions to a 91-year-old man to take back to his apartment complex to collect signatures.
* Sang on the Capitol Square to defend the First Amendment.
* Collected petition signatures by a McDonald's restaurant.
* Recorded a performance of "Scott Walker, You Should Recall" and put it on YouTube.
* Collected petition signatures by a Goodwill store.
* Bought a Garmin GPS device primarily to find canvassing locations.
* Became a Special Registration Deputy, empowered to register City of Madison voters.
* Video recorded license numbers.
* Smiled and waved at dozens of people who were giving me the finger.
* Collected recall petition signatures from Hmong citizens in Wausau.
* Agreed to serve on a committee. (This is the most surprising thing.)
* Joined with Lori Compas and her grassroots volunteers to successfully recall Wisconsin's Senate Majority Leader.
* Spent a weekend in the "Working on a Campaign" track at Camp Wellstone.
* Posted a diary to Daily Kos.
* Gained deep respect and great admiration for my fellow citizens, whose idealism, energy, creativity and determination showed me what democracy looks like.