Thursday, March 10, 2011
Schoolhouse Rock Lied to Me
I remember when I was in the sixth grade, my teacher turned the lights off in the classroom; it was movie time. Sure, the subject was one of my least favorites, but who doesn't love a good movie, right? As a happy tune fills my ears, I rest my head on my arms and watch. Schoolhouse Rock was going to teach me something; How a Bill Becomes a Law. Does anyone else remember that video?
The picture of a capitol comes into view with a happy little jingle. The American Flag waves in the middle of the frame. Sitting on the steps is a "Sad little scrap of paper". Remember him? He was only a bill, sitting there on capitol hill... waiting to be passed. Remember he says that it's a long, long journey to the capital?
A bill that was introduced one day by our state legislature; 144 pages of union busting, environment killing, power plant selling, and a death warrant for the middle class. This sad little bundle of 144 "scraps of paper" was rammed into legislature and was expected to pass just TWO DAYS after it was introduced. So much for that long, long journey.
It was supposed to be a long, long wait while he was sitting in Committee.
Tonight that bill passed the Senate Republicans in FIVE MINUTES. Closed-door session. No public attendance. The Senate Minority Leader wasn't even allowed to speak on how the actions of the Senate were illegal. Five minutes. The average person can't even run a mile in that span of time. It takes me longer than that to finish a cigarette. But in the Wisconsin Senate it takes five minutes to ram a bill through AND attempt to destroy an entire class of citizens.
This bill started as an idea. Just like our sad little scrap of paper in the video.
You know what else started out as an idea? Democracy. Now, I give you an example of a good idea, because I want you to think about HOW LONG IT TOOK to get to where we are now. Democracy wasn't just wished into being in five minutes. Democracy was not just something one person decided was right for everyone. Now a bad idea; Drunk Driving. The similarity between drunk driving as a bad idea and this bill is that they effect more than just the person who had the idea to get behind the wheel. The difference? Drunk drivers are impaired in their decision making. Scott Walker (though I sense a serious bunch of deficiencies) is not. He is doing this without the benefit of blame on alcohol.
That little bill says he is going to wait while Congressmen discuss and debate.
There was no debating here. There was no give and take. This was a Republicans idea of a field day on the Democrats because they were outnumbered. No one on the Republican side even NEEDED to listen, because they held the majority. Few took the time to grace the Democrats arguments about it with a counterpoint. They decided that after a session lasting sixty hours already, they were done listening. They were done listening to the people. They were done listening to the elected officials. They didn't even wait that first time for all of the committee members to be seated and in the room for voting when they read roll call for that first vote. Shame.
Once the bill is passed in the House it goes on to the Senate.
Or that is how it should be, right? Because the House and Senate are both very Republican, they figure that they are just going to ram it straight through to the Governor and that everything will go off without a hitch. Wrong. See, that bill requires a Quorum. That means that a party of 20 Senate members is required to vote on it. There are 19 Republicans and 14 Democrats in the State Senate. What is a Democrat to do? All fourteen Democratic men and women make like Abraham Lincoln, and deny the right their Quorum. They flee, not in terror, not in unwillingness to do their jobs, but in an attempt to save the middle class from being railroaded by a 144 page bill that should have been debated upon for far longer than the Republicans wished to spend on it. They heed the cries of their constituents and remain safely across state lines. This is not how a bill is supposed to be passed. But you have to admit, that was pretty genius of them. I count myself among the proud.
The bill waits in line with a lot of other bills.
This one takes precedence. No other agenda is as important to Scott Walker as this one. There is no line. Only Democrat defeat. All that prevents this bill, this union busting and atrocious bill, are those Senators across state lines.We all know what comes next;
If the President (or in this case, Governor) signs this bill it becomes LAW. According to the video, it's not easy to become a law.
Unless of course, you have a Republican House, Senate, and Governor... and they have their sights set on your unions. No amendments, because the Democrats do not have a loud enough voice. Nothing. Nothing except the 14 Senators, and the people of Wisconsin.
When the lights came up and my eyes adjusted, there was no way I could have foreseen the times we face now. There was no way that I could know that after years of service, a family member could lose their job because someone younger could get paid less to do it. No way that I could have known that it would devastate and undermine my daughters' educations. That they would not sit second chair in the orchestra as I did. That they would not paint their frustrations on a canvas as I did. That their schools may not have the funding should they find themselves unable to read due to dyslexia, unable to learn because of a disability, unable to attend because I found myself suddenly out of work and unable to afford to pay for their schooling. I never saw, in the brightness and blur after that film, myself standing with thousands of others, begging to be heard by our legislators. I never imagined that I would have to defend my power plant against tyrants. Never thought I would hear my Governor shaming himself in a prank phone call, admitting to thinking about sending trouble-makers into the crowds where my children and I were peacefully assembled. Where my family stood together to defend the rights of OUR parents.
So, hell yes I am sad. I am sad that I was disillusioned by a candy-coated version of Democracy in my youth. Schoolhouse Rock needs a new video as a sequel to "How a Bill Becomes a Law". It should be entitled, "How a Bill Gets Rammed Through and Becomes a Law" followed directly after by, "How Your Government Shames Itself", followed finally with, "How To Break Democracy".
I don't ask you to agree with me. I don't ask you to stand with my family, with my friends, with me. I do ask that you DEMAND better of your Representatives. I DEMAND that you ask for transparency. For Fairness. For our representatives to listen to the PEOPLE. This country is OUR country; by the people, FOR THE PEOPLE. Not for tax breaks. Not for unions. Not AGAINST unions. FOR US. It is time that we write a new song.
My best to you all, and please share this if you like.
Written with Love By Naomi Houser