For us in the Overpass Light Brigade, a tweet is long-form narrative. We have to say it in 30 letters or less when we organize between 20 and 120 volunteers to hold some lighted letters on a bridge over a busy Wisconsin highway, communicating progressive political messages to the traffic below.
With bagpipers, bands, banners, flags, drums, cookies, light-sabers, deck chairs, camaraderie and conversation, our community of volunteers continues to grow even larger and more robust since the valiant attempt to vote Scott Walker out of office. The easy binaries of the recall have been replaced with more general concerns such as ALEC's stranglehold on American democracy and the effect of Citizens United on our democratically held public auctions. The deepening clench of corporate hegemony has been our subject recently, as we have focussed messages on the contrived narratives of austerity.
July 14: MONEY ≠ SPEECH
If money is speech, then poets should be the richest people in the country. Instead, rich mens' megaphones blast messages of wealth and power, and if you are singing a plaintive prairie refrain like "this land is your land" or "brother, can you spare a dime" you are Public Enemy #2. The #1 slot is saved for public school teachers, like the two women who came up to our overpass 3 weeks ago when we were holding HEALTH CARE FOR ALL and told us how they saw us from the roadway, and turned around to come thank us. They started crying. Embarrassed, the older woman, a teacher of 30 years, spoke of feeling so disheartened by what has happened in Wisconsin, about the hurt of finding herself to be the target of so much hatred and scorn. She got a lot of hugs and she and her friend held letters for a while and went on their way. The assault on public workers isn't going away - Walker's (re)election proved that such shameful divisiveness works. The path to privatization is clearly marked. Public education needs to now be understood as radical and subversive action.
Money Equals Speech for the Kochs, the Sheldons, the Mittens of the silken caress, the pickings of downscaled pockets, picked up and echoed in the scorn of goons posting vile hatred on every worthless news journals' even more worthless web tantrum rant spit into comment threads by tinfoil torch singers shouting all-cap anthems of anger and odes of obeisance.
But we in the OLB beg to differ. We saw obscene amounts of money jam the airwaves for Walker in springtime. Money doesn't, should't, couldn't and can't equal speech, and we should all be paying great attention when everything in law and politics indicates otherwise. We'll bring it to the bridges, testify from the overpasses, claim the peoples' bandwidth with gentle acts of insistent visibility.
July 10: END TAX BREAKS FOR THE 1%
Austerity politics is not when we have to tighten our belts due to tough times. Austerity politics is when the tough times have been manipulated, when the social contract between labor and management has been broken, when the rich get richer, the middle class get poor, and the poor get desperate. Austerity is a scam, a con, a global shell game with a Euro-to-Dollar conversion happening faster than a Libertarian can say LIBOR. We trust a back room banker's gilded agreement like we trust Mitt Romney to do right by the family pet. The rich get each other elected. The elected get each other rich. An elegant equation. Nice tax break, if you can get it.
July 3: #QUESTION AUSTERITY
When you hear them say "we're broke!" you better grab for your wallet, as there will follow patriarchal sanctimonious po-faced picking of pockets . You also better sequester your drinking water, food rations, milk for pepper-spray, tear-gas masks, metal trashcan lids for body-armor, rocks and rockets. See: #SpanishMiners, #GreeceRiots, #AusterityKills, #ScrantonMinWage. (And don't for a minute use chalk on a sidewalk in Los Angeles or dream that the people responsible for the collapse of the Roman Empire will ever have to enter the Austerity Arena). Question Authority and Question Austerity. Another elegant equation, especially useful when turned to action. We added the hashtag in order to integrate deeper messages on Twitter - that narrative form of excessive wordiness that now echoes and amplifies OLB actions.
July 2: HEALTHCARE FOR ALL
On the day that the Affordable Care Act was surprisingly deemed responsible and legal by the same folks that brought us Citizens United, we went out to celebrate. Who could get mad at Healthcare? I did the tripod camera crouch in the shrubbery, fighting the mosquitos while clicking the cable release of my Olympus SLR, getting the good shots of the semi-trucks roaring by, their tail lights leaving traces in the hard-lined night. It was interesting to hear the Doppler cries of window roll down "fuck you" and "asshole". It begins with an aggressive car-horn honk, rising in pitch with a synchronized fffffuuuuu-UUUCKKKK YYyyyyoo ooooooo ooo …………. as it passes by, goes under the overpass, and drops down in pitch and volume into the angry "I hate health care" night, doppler assholes rendered silent in rage and muted by the hard laws of acoustics. It is its own kind of American anthem - the anger of people wanting to be denied healthcare for a preexisting condition, only to realize that their right to be fleeced has been merciless stripped from their Service Providers corporate arsenal of denial. It is loud coming at you, spurts and spits in your face, and then simply fizzles and fades into the night, sadly descending into the uncertainty of the highway ahead.
June 29: CORPORATIONS ≠ PEOPLE
In spite of being told otherwise by the highest law of the land, there seems to be various levels of disagreement - downright rebellion - about the simple assertion through Citizens United that corporations are people. What's in a name? Call them a murmuring flock of birds . Call them a full moon behind black branches. Call them horses running to wind. Who cares what you call them? Until you give them the rights of free and undisclosed speech in the form of unlimited money to buy elections. Let's just cut right to the auction. This is getting way worse before it gets better. This is the fight that was lost before the first clench of the fist at the solidarity rally. We should be going all molotov and pitchfork on this one.
Madison was a crazy scene: 56 activists came out to join us, including Guerrilla Shine Squad projecting messages on held white sheets, chalkers on sidewalks, ninja paparazzi brigade in the highway grasses, and the busy belt line traffic of Madison's busiest highway. We left Madison that night feeling hope for the dawn of democracy. Madison is like that. They know how to throw a good Bridge Party.
So that is a rundown of some OLB actions in and around Milwaukee. We've been in a serious drought here in Milwaukee. I've been watering my garden, badscience built us a new website, and we've gotten some really nice press both locally and internationally (here, here and here). The police haven't bothered us lately, and no one has attacked us or our cars. We're strengthening our ties with the Occupy movement, creating some fun stickers and T-Shirts for OLB, working to more fully integrate physical and online actions, and studying strategies of defiance, such as Gene Sharp's "From Dictatorship to Democracy" and Andrew Boyd's wonderful compendium of resistance tactics, "Beautiful Trouble." I highly recommend it for summer reading. It will make you want to Mic Check a few science deniers claiming climate change is God's punishment of the Canaanites, or perhaps inspire you to get out your kids' sidewalk chalk and draw your own hopscotch squares while the rubber bullets fall like rain on the Los Angeles streets.