It’s becoming ever the more apparent to me when it comes to public discourse in our country, that there are a large number of people who dominate the discourse and refuse to acknowledge the humanity in another.
I don’t agree with what the Wisconsin Republicans did. I don’t think their tactics were appropriate and I believe their policies will take us in a direction that will cost more than what they’re admitting in public. As much as I think they lack the communication and/or compromise skills necessary of an elected official, I don’t denigrate them. I don’t call them lazy or stupid or evil.
I’m not prone to conspiracy theories nor do I don a tin-foil hat. As much as I appreciate the perspective of a great many Progressive talkers, that doesn’t mean that I can’t identify when they’re stretching the truth or misrepresenting the facts. I have the ability to think critically. I try my best to talk about the ideas and why I think they’re harmful or disagree with them, instead of the character of the person who has those ideas. However, I’ve lost count of the number of people, most especially those in favor of Governor Walker’s tactics, that denigrate and demonize protestors. Their attacks go straight to character and assume the worst because they disagree.
There are more comments than I care to count that assume that all public employees are lazy. That they don’t deserve their job. That they just collect a paycheck. That they’re somehow safe from being fired or laid off. That they don’t count and that their jobs aren’t real. Apparently because people protest after work that means that they’re not going to work. Or that if they do it during “business hours” that they’re skipping out on their job instead of it being their day off or that their scheduled work hours are different from “business hours.” Or that when they get to work they sit there and drink coffee all day. Or that when faced with real danger to their life or safety on a daily basis like the Correction Officers in our state prisons those factors shouldn’t play a role in their pay.
Mostly it’s because this doesn’t compute with the vast majority of public employees I know, including the one that sleeps in my bed every night. The one that carries the weight of our family on his shoulders. My family, that lives it every day, and puts our lives on hold for his job. We’ve rearranged our vacation, changed our plans, and gone on without him. All so that there is a roof over our head and food on the table…just like you. He’s said goodbye to our children at 10am and said, “See you tomorrow,” because my kids won’t see their Dad again until they wake up the next day. We live, breathe, and eat this job…just like you. It’s changed our family dynamics. We all know the ringtone on his phone. We know when work is calling. I’ve watched my son’s face fall when Daddy has to go and they can’t finish the Lego structure they were working on. He works holidays and weekends and evenings. We take all of the paid vacation days he gets and use them a few at a time because the rest of the world revolves around the Saturday/Sunday weekend. I keep a blog for our extended family, but mostly for my husband because if I didn’t he wouldn’t know what goes on in our lives on a regular basis.
The response then typically is “So what? If you don’t like it then quit! Welcome to the real world!” To which I answer – how does that have anything to do with what I was talking about? And, perhaps more importantly, the application process is open to all. You’re welcome to put in your application for this job…except that you don’t want it, right? I’m not asking for your pity. I’m not complaining or whining. I’m just asking for the modicum of respect you yourself seem incapable of showing to those of us that call your community home. You rail about how selfish we are and yet in your pronouncements of just how selfish I am, I hear the same from you.
I know, I know, people say terrible things online when they think that it’s anonymous – when they don’t have to look you in the eye when they say it – when they think they’ll be applauded for doing so. Still, a few people do say these things in public, but even if for the sake of argument they didn’t, what does that say about our country? Because if they’re saying it online it means they think it. It arises from within themselves. It colors their perception and will impact they way they treat those they disagree with. I think of all the things I’ve observed in these last few weeks, this issue here is the one that gives me the least hope for our future as a country and concerns me the most.
…because when you deny the humanity in another, you deny your own. And after that what do we have left?