By Matthew Rothschild on March 04, 2011

A little after 3:00 Friday afternoon, in front of a crowd of 850 people that had gathered at short notice, Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewics came outside of the city-county building with the Reverend Jesse Jackson.

"It's nice to see so many people here," the mayor said.

"And it's nice to see the palm trees," the mayor joked, alluding to Fox News's insertion of some California ruckus footage that it had pawned off as being from Madison.

"This struggle is not just about union rights," the mayor said. "It's also about human rights. And it's not just about civil rights but it's also about peaceful protest. We have showed the world that Madison can protest peacefully."

One person held a sign that said, "Firefighters for Workers' Rights."

And many people held pink signs that read, "Walker, Your Pink Slip Is Coming," in response to the governor's threat to hand out layoff notices.

Then the mayor introduced Jackson to tumultuous applause.

"Collective bargaining is what democracy looks like," Jackson said. "The right to be at the table is what democracy looks like."

Jackson revved up the Madison crowd, which was in a fighting spirit already.

"I congratulate you for your staying power," he said, "for your commitment to hold on and hold out, and for your focus to stay nonviolent."

Jackson then made a comparison between the civil rights movement and the current labor struggle in Wisconsin.

"This is the week we went across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma for the right to vote," he said. "We have gone from Wallace trying to deny us the right to vote to Walker trying to deny workers the right to bargain. We have gone from Wallace to Walker."

And he pointed out that "Dr. King's last act on Earth was marching for workers' rights."

He added: "When we march, we honor Dr. King. When we march multiculturally and multiracially, we honor Dr. King. When we march nonviolently, we honor Dr. King."

Jackson criticized Walker and other Republican governors for using teachers and workers as "scapegoats."

And he asked repeatedly, "Where is the money?"

He pointed out that there were trillions of dollars for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and for bailing out the banks. He said there were billions of dollars for tax breaks for the five biggest oil companies, even though they have made $1 trillion since 9/ll.

But somehow there is no money, Jackson said, for teachers or for universal health care or for forgiving student loans or for HeadStart or for Pell grants.

Jackson took pains to warn the crowd not to lose faith in the days ahead, even if Walker succeeds in passing his bill.

"Don't let them break your spirits," he said, as he concluded. "Stand tall. The journey gets hard some time. Hold on. Hold out. Victory is assured. Joy cometh in the morning."

And with that, the crowd broke out into applause, and then, expressing Midwestern politeness and gratitude, chanted: "Thank you! Thank you!"

If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story "Did Scott Walker Confess to a Crime in Koch Prank?."

Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter.

Section: 

Add new comment

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.

More

Subscribe to The Progressive and Get A Free 2015 Calendar

By Julia Burke
Ali Abd ElRahman believes the United States has the potential to take a leadership role in food...

A plea to United States citizens to work for peace

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).

Public School Shakedown

Progressive Media Project

Newsletter