As is often the case, going on an Artist Date leads me to the next step. In this case the Wisconsin capitol steps. After my afternoon of watching eagles play above the gleaming, glowing water, I knew it was time for me to be a participant, instead of just observer and commentator. It was time to go to the capitol myself and be part of the crowd. I wanted to be counted. I also didn't want to look back in years to come and know I was there, but I wasn't THERE.
As I approached the capitol and saw the throngs of people and heard the drums and chants and saw signs waving and noticed the diversity of people, I felt tears form. I was proud of each person who had made the decision to be part of the number. An old couple, 80 or so, I suspect, holding gloved hands and walking slowly on the edge of the marchers. Children, some in strollers who will have no memory of being there, but their parents and grandparents will tell them about their first march on the capitol. Firefighters led by bagpipers. Students, immigrants, teachers, teachers, and more teachers and workers for whom this is not the first struggle. I heard Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary, leading the crowd in I Had a Hammer, his voice thinner and not as strong as in years past, but the heart beating for justice is just as steady. I heard a speaker wonder why it was ok for the governor to accept money from contributors outside the state, and yet he is opposed to people from other states coming to support the protest.
We may not have all chosen to be there for the same reason, and many have immediate and personal concerns that need to be addressed, but I suspect we all would agree on one thing. We were there to peacefully, but clearly reinforce our belief in democracy and to participate in our rights as citizens to remind our elected officials that they work on our behalf. I look forward to spring when I will again walk around the capitol square buying fresh produce at Madison's amazing Farmers' Market, but Saturday, February 26, 2011 was a good day to be there, too.
NOTE: A comment for this post refers to the word "KILL" on the sign in the picture. I almost didn't use this picture for that reason and should have explained the sign. The sign says "KILL the Bill," but that isn't clear in the picture.