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Coming Home February 27, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — wiunion @ 3:08 pm

They say, “You can’t come home again.” I think what they really mean, is that when you do come home, you’re not always the same person who left. This journey has meant far more than 1200 miles each way. Jeanne Morrissette said along the way, “This trip is aging me!” It’s aged me, too.

I never expected this journey to become a source of anything for anyone; just an opportunity to be part of something bigger, an opportunity to find the heartbeat of America right now, and to be a part of history in the making. The new found notoriety is a bit unnerving, and not a little lonely at times.

Yesterday, folks put together a Solidarity Rally in our state capitol, as did so many other people around the country. My small group of friends and I walked up to the capitol building and saw a small group of Tea Party protesters. There were no solidarity protesters.

My heart sank, but I kept walking. “They’re not going to show up.” Panic crept in and was colder than the blistering wind. The Press Herald and KJ wrote a vicious OpEd about me, effing up a pretty fundamental fact to their argument, by the way. There are some people who are vocal and the Governor had called me out in his radio address the night before.

After debating Sean Hannity, this is nothing. But, for a moment, I felt fear creep in. It’s one thing to stand up, but when you’re out there on the limb looking down, it’s always nice to know there’s a soft landing.

My friends asked, “Are we in the right place?” We kept walking. Past the Don’t Tread on Me flags, past the periodic cheers from the 20-25 people who had also braved the bitter cold to stand up for their beliefs.

We climbed the hill and rounded the corner of the capitol building toward the parking lot.

And there they were. They were the most beautiful people I’ve ever seen. My heart skipped a beat and my eyes welled up.

“They came,” I whispered. “They really came.”

A couple hundred people were already there, proudly holding some of the best creativity one could hope for in hand-made signs. I took it all in, breathed in the moment, and thought, “I’m home.”

As we made our way through, I glanced around the crowd spotting the faces of old friends. Hugs were plentiful and the smiles could have warmed a thousand suns. “Welcome Home!” We were gone for a total of 4.5 days, but it felt like a lifetime.

People I didn’t know began coming up to me, “Are you Diane?” Constituents showed up, smiling brightly, beaming that their rep had made the trek.

Regardless of how strongly one feels about what they are doing, when it becomes controversial, there is always a fear. There is always a moment when you question yourself. Perhaps more people should feel that fear, question their motives. I think we need more self-aware politicos in the world; it might be a better place if we all just stopped to think for a second about what we’re doing and who we’re doing it for.

But when I saw the number of people who had shown up on such, SUCH a bitter day, everything came together. And when I saw Hon. Anne Rand, my predecessor in the legislature, there at the rally with her poster, I knew everything was just as it should be. I knew I was on the right path. Some have criticized me, joked even, that I have followed my gut on this trip, followed my heart. I can’t explain why I had to go, but I knew this was a path I was intended to follow. I know not how far the path goes, or where it will lead, but I keep on it.

The one unresolved thing for me, the part I find saddest of all, is this division between the working class. Corporate billionaires are spending untold amounts of money to pit workers against workers for an ever shrinking piece of the pie. It is time to stop demonizing one another.

We all fear the effects of this economy – and we all feel the effects of this economy. It is time to stop throwing stones at one another and time instead to start building bridges together. We must work together to rebuild this economy, and we must do it together. Unless you’re part of the 2% making all the money, then we should all be figuring out how to make this country work, kick into overdrive and start creating the good-paying jobs that sustain the Middle Class.

For those who hate me for speaking my truth, I thank you for teaching me to be stronger.

For those who fear retribution for speaking your truth, speak it anyway.

My voice shook so hard yesterday before I spoke to the crowd, that the words literally would not come out. I didn’t even know what to say. But once they came, they would not stop. And so it is with truth; it has a funny way of finding the light.

Indeed, perhaps speaking our collective truths will set us all free.

 

Video of the Trek February 26, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — wiunion @ 11:27 am

 

Packing Up! February 23, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — wiunion @ 5:43 pm

We are packing up our stuff from our home away from home. Dianne and Bob welcomed us into their home, fed us, introduced us to folks in the area and really helped make our stay so much more warm.

Whether it was a police officer who showed me the way in, a family who took us in or the hundred people who helped us get in, the kindness of others is something I will always remember about this place. It’s been a long four days, sort of an emotional roller coaster. I’m sad to leave, but am ready to go home.

What a long, strange trip it has been.

 

The People’s House

Filed under: Uncategorized — wiunion @ 3:29 am

Looking around the vast lawn, all I could see were people, signs and police. What struck me most was just how determined and yet polite folks were. “Oh, sorry, do you need to get through?” We were not related, but it seemed that everyone was family.

“Have you been inside yet?” I shook my head. I was planning to get around to it, but we were busy serving coffee and hot chocolate to people standing out in the cold.

A stern look followed, “You have to go.” I shrugged. I’d get around to it.

“No really. You HAVE to go.”

I followed her through the crowd on the front lawn, up the staircase, around the building to the side entrance – the only entrance in or out of the building these days. There were countless police officers, but they looked remarkably relaxed. No one bothered the police; they’re union, too. They get it, but they have to protect the safety and welfare of all people. They directed us politely to the entrance door.

Walking in, the first thing you notice is the sound.
It’s deafening.

“Usually, you can hear a pin drop in here and it echoes through the halls,” I was told.

Today, all you could hear was people. The rotunda is its own echo chamber, amplifying each person’s voice beyond its own range. But today, there was a symphony of voices rising up to the heavens to praise democracy. It was as fervent as an evangelical revival as thousands and thousands of people lifted their voices to the heavens.

It felt like the collective consciousness of all of us had awoken, and was channeled right into that room. It was transcendent. It was a moment in my life I would never give away, yet I wish folks all around the country could be in its presence even for a minute. It is a mecca in and of its own right, a mecca of democracy.

The people of Wisconsin have taken over – and taken back – their House. It’s time for every day Americans to take back their country.

Rise up, fellow citizens, and sing to the heavens your hopes and dreams. One voice becomes two, and two becomes four until the collective voice of hope – real hope – transcends political ideology.

The Kingdom of Heaven is within you.

 

Can 34 Hours Change Your Life? February 22, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — wiunion @ 10:07 pm

$853.98.

That was the receipt for coffee today from the Egedgerton Dunkin Donuts store in WI. We actually cleaned them out of Joe boxes. And they were happy to help, excited at the chance to partner with us to keep folks warm.

A small token, really, for the workers standing in the cold and standing up for the rights of public workers. Camped out on the corner of Carol and Mifflin, there has been a constant flow of people all day, grateful for a moment to wrap their hands around a warm cup of coffee or hot chocolate.

“Oh! You are the people from Maine!” Person after person recognized the story of a small group of ladies who had picked up and traveled from Maine to Madison.

A little warmth goes a long way.

During the morning, I spoke on a couple of local radio shows and answered media calls from back home. Those were the easy calls.

At some point during the day, the Maine GOP decided I was a threat. They sent out an email, posted my phone number (207) 272-9182, btw, and encouraged Maine residents to call and demand I come home.

“Are you a constituent?”

“Oh, you’re not. Well I’m happy to hear from you, but you should know my constituents are squarely behind me in what I’m doing.”

Well, I’m a taxpayer.

“Yes, and as a taxpayer, you have a representative.”

You’re not working today.

“Well, the fact that you and I are having this conversation means that in fact, I am doing my job.”

You’re not in Augusta at the State House.

“We have a state shut down day today to save money on the budget.”

Oh. Well, I’m a taxpayer.

And the broken record begins to spin again.

I commend folks for taking the time to stand up for what they believe in – particularly calling a legislator they know nothing about, except that the Maine GOP now sees me as enemy number one.

Well, I’m honored. While they’re at it, perhaps they could clean out the skeletons in my closet. I’m sure there are a few hanging out in there somewhere.

It looks like I’ll have a cold welcome when I get back home from the GOP, but it’s really all worth it when Maine people are bringing a little bit of warmth to the very workers standing up for the rights of so many workers.

Time to unload a van full of coffee.

No sugar, please; I’m sweet enough as it is.

Please be sure to sign the Solidarity Letter

We are accepting donations to buy food, water, and coffee (It’s COLD there, too!) for our protesters.

DONATE HERE

 

Ummm….soooo

Filed under: Uncategorized — wiunion @ 12:43 am

Somebody pinch me, please.

As we drove through fields and fields today, I kept thinking each new farmhouse could have been right out of Wizard of Oz.

And considering the past 36 hours, perhaps it is rather apropo. I, too, have been traveling with new friends, both tall and short. The miles and miles of highway have felt as never-ending as the Yellow Brick Road as we head to a mystical city where all our questions are to be answered.

Blizzards have blocked our way and weariness has threatened to keep us on the straight and narrow. There have been wrong turns and tests of courage, often unexpected.

We are still nearly two hours away, yet the Huffington Post put me on the front page, a screen shot moment. (If there was no screen shot, I wouldn’t have believed it myself. srsly.)

And I had my first (?) run in with someone who gets up in the morning just tonfind ways to undermine working families. The jury is still out on whether or not I was effective, but sometimes it is critical just to get a countervailing voice of sanity (not Hannity) on the airwaves.

I doubt I will be welcome back. I’d chalk it up to a bucket list item, but really… Who dreams of going toe to toe with him?

Tomorrow, the real attacks begin. The idea that idealism exists must be squashed like the bugs some CEOs see us as.

Bring it, Baby. I started out with nothing and I still have most of it. I’m not perfect…far from it. But that’s what makes this countr great- millions of imperfect souls figuring things out and working together.

I packed my favorite red shoes, the ones people always call my ruby red slippers. If things go well, perhaps I will find both my heart and courage along the way. If the scare crows keep surfacing, perhaps we can finally fnd them a brain.

If they do not, I will clique my ruby red slippers and tell myself, “There’s no place like home.”

 

Putting your money where your mouth is February 21, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — wiunion @ 2:43 pm

My cell phone has died and now my only connection to the outside world is the iPad I am borrowing from the little one traveling with us. I cannot refresh my email page fast enough to catch all the notifications.

In reading the HuffPost comments, most are good. It is always the negative ones that stick out. “I didn’t sound That stupid..did I?”

But they only hit for a moment because there are so many amazing people right there showing support in their words, their shares, and even their pocketbook.

The first donation came in on it’s own. “You’ve got money!” was the message. I almost deleted it thinking it was an email promising great riches.

You have $30. I looked for the extra zeros before realizing someone had sent me a contribution. Since that first donation came in at 9:00 p.m. On the 19th, 52 people from all around the country have donated, totaling nearly $1500.00 in contributions toward coffee, hot chocolate and hand warms.

It is 9:40 AM on Feb 21.

The trip has been fraught with treacherous weather and little, if any, sleep. This generosity and encouragement has shown just how committed people are to stepping up. Not everyone can get in a car and drive to Madison, but people all around the country are standing up and putting their money where their mouth is.

We are up against a well funded machine, but it is a very, very heartwarming start. You all inspire me.

 

 
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