We Are All Wisconsinites

Lately, have you found yourself asking “what would Howard Beale do?” Who doesn’t recall the crazed television anchorman trying to shake his broadcast audience out of their inertia telling them to go to the window and shout at the top of their lungs to the street below “I’M MAD AS HELL AND I AM NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE!”The broadcaster Beale in the 1976 movie Network, played by Peter Finch, acknowledges that times are hard: there is a depression, people are jobless, food is wanting and crime has overtaken the streets (massive police layoffs ?). Beale is “the in your face” harbinger rallying viewers to get off their sofas, throw open the closed curtains and locked windows. ‘Well, I’m not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get mad! I don’t want you to protest. I don’t want you to riot – I don’t want you to write to your congressman because I wouldn’t know what to tell you to write. I don’t know what to do about no jobs, Wall Street bonuses, teacher and public employee layoffs, votes to repeal union collective bargaining rights…. All I know is that first you’ve got to get mad… [shouting] You’ve got to say, ‘I’m a HUMAN BEING, Goddamnit! My life has VALUE!’ So I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now!” And that is exactly what Wisconsinites are doing. Now in its fourth day, Wisconsinites are protesting their Tea Party governor’s “budget repair” bill. Democrats have been a no-show preventing the bill going forward for lack of a quorum. All ages are represented: young, old and college students. A university professor made this observation: “there are the high school students, who have marched from their schools, a few miles from the capitol. Yesterday they filled two blocks as they marched around the capitol, and for those of us who are in danger of taking our protesting too seriously, we have something to learn from high school students about how to have fun with politics, even in a steady drizzle. A whole new generation is learning about democracy.”
A New York Times editorial today goes on record saying it doesn’t advocate shutting down schools and instead that both sides should come to the bargaining table. However, what may be surfacing in Wisconsin is the outrage people have been carrying for the last few years: all the TARP funds that went to bail out Wall Street, and the way big banks are sitting on huge assets, and how its Wall St. types can look forward to extended tax breaks along with the resumption of their obscene bonuses without any worry of regulation and oversight or layoffs. Instead, it is teachers and public workers who are being vilified across the entire country. This is a slice of the American landscape that is turning uglier every day. It just may be Egypt that will get it right. Stay tuned.
FRONTLINE PBS airs a special on the Youth Movement that inspired a democratic revolution in Egypt and its new “birth certificate.”
FRONTLINE Special Report from Egypt
Revolution in Cairo
Tuesday, February 22, 2011, at 9 P.M. ET on PBS

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