By Matthew Rothschild on February 17, 2011

What glory it is to be in Madison, Wisconsin, this week, where the people of this state have risen up in revolt against the Neanderthal Republicans who are trying to bust public sector unions and inflict massive harm on their workers.

It's not about balancing a budget. It's about destroying unions as a political and economic force. That's why the bill says every public sector union would have to recertify every year, and why it says that no employer could deduct union dues from paychecks. Neither of those things has anything to do with saving a dime of Wisconsin taxpayer money.

This is ground zero in the fight back, and Wisconsinites are engaging in the closest thing to a general strike that I've ever seen in my lifetime.

This is what democracy looks like. One sign said, "This Is Our Tahrir Square."

I interviewed protestors on Wednesday when the crowd swelled to 30,000. One woman was wearing a "Kick Me, I'm a State Worker" sign. But she declined to give her name. "I'm afraid I'd get fired," she said.

Another woman named Mary Batt, who works for the Department of Justice, said, "I'm here for people who can't be for fear they'd be retaliated against."

I spoke with Allie Riefke, 17, of Mt. Horeb High School, who took off school to come to the rally. She held a sign that read, "Save Our teachers. And My Mom." Her mom works as a guidance counselor at another school, and she couldn't come to the rally "because she'd get into trouble."

Allie said her mom is "going to lose $5,000 if they pass this bill." She added: "That's braces for my little brother. It's not fair."

She's right. It isn't fair.

And that's why so many Wisconsinites are out in the street nonviolently but militantly fighting for their rights this week.

If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story "Lessons of the Glorious Egyptian Revolution."

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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