Tuesday, March 1, 2011

I Am a Wisconsinite

A have a friend who's been marching and protesting in Madison, Wisconsin for the last couple of weeks, trying to protect his union rights to collectively bargain. We met more than a few years ago working on a show together for an out of town tryout in Denver, and then again in New York City. He has since moved back to his native Madison to take an industry job and raise a family.

He wrote a stirring post on his Facebook page and gave me permission to repost it here.

I was born and raised in Wisconsin. At the time I did not think that made me very lucky. After I graduated from UW-Madison I moved to NYC and immediately considered myself a New Yorker. Even after moving back to raise a family I would, for a time, tell people I lived in Madison but just moved back from NYC because I felt it sounded cooler. I was wrong. There is nothing cooler than being a Wisconsinite.
My family has always been politically active in Wisconsin politics and labor movements. I feel like my sisters and I spent a good portion of our childhoods at the Labor Temple on Park St. or handing out flyers at Farmer's Market. It didn't dawn on me at the time what it was I was involved in. My parents always worked for the community. They always fought for workers and those that stood to protect them. For me... it was just another rally or picnic. I didn't understand the fight that it took just to maintain what had been taken for granted by many.
My mother spent over 10 years working at the WEAC headquarters in Madison where she also served as a union representative. It was something she was proud of. A little over a year ago she was diagnosed with brain cancer, the treatment of which has left her unable to work or even care for herself. That responsibility has landed mostly on my dad who is retired. Without the benefits that she worked and fought for we would not have been able to afford to treat or care for her now. She was a public worker. She was a union member. I grew up in the same house and can promise you, she did not bring home lavish pay.

This is not about money and numbers. It is about people. This is about the teachers that spend as much time with your kids as you do. It is about the nurses that care for you and yours when ill. It is about law enforcement and fire fighters. It is about the people of Wisconsin that make the state what it is. 
The events of the last few weeks have been inspiring to the world. It has given me new respect for the people I have chosen to live with. It has given me faith in the power of the people. It has given me an opportunity to march with my father on one side and my son on the other. I know it means nothing to him now but some day he may look back at it as his first memory of the power of the people. We must fight on for him. 
I am from Wisconsin. I always have been. Pretty cool huh? 
James Uphoff, Madision, Wisconsin


jhw22 said...

Thank you, James. This was beautiful and needs to be shared.

Kudos to your mom and dad for their hard work and to you for continuing it. And to your kiddo who will someday realize for himself how cool it is to be a Wisconsinite.


vera lynn said...

most wonderful