By Matthew Rothschild on June 11, 2012

One last thought on the Scott Walker debacle in Wisconsin: We’re not going to start winning elections until we start winning conversations.

These conversations need to happen at the local, grassroots level, where we engage with our neighbors, including some who don’t already agree with us.

What I’d like to see is a local progressive council in every town and city and county in Wisconsin—and around the country.

These would be regular gatherings, with good food and drink (the “Drinking Liberally” groups are on to something!), and speakers, book clubs, film festivals.

From these councils, people would not only recoup their energy but also bring to the fore the basic demands they have at the local level: whether it’s for keeping the school from closing down or blocking the latest encroaching Walmart or protesting the abusive local employer or for just airing out how crazy it is that we don’t have paid sick leave or decent health care.

These should be open to as wide a public as possible, and members should be encouraged to bring open-minded friends or neighbors or colleagues to come and share their thoughts or just have fun with nice, decent people.

This is doable in Wisconsin because of the great grassroots organizing that occurred to get those million signatures against Walker. We should use those signatures as a basis for establishing these councils.

This is going on already in several places. In Oregon, Wisconsin, the Oregon Area Progressives have been meeting every Saturday at the Fire Fly Coffeehouse, and they have an open mic every month. Similar get togethers are occurring with the Rock County Progressives, and those in Middleton, Stoughton, Sun Prairie, and many other places.

This is how we regroup. This is how we move forward.

If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story “Accountability in Defeat in Wis.."

Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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