There is an unreported phenomenon taking place underneath Wisconsin’s historic labor struggle: the lives of tens of thousands of people, young and old, union and non-union, are being permanently changed by this experience. You can hear it in their words and see it in their faces.
A Labor Movement divided by differing levels of relative privilege has been united — hopefully for the long-term if not permanently.
Scores of ordinary people have abandoned blind party loyalties in the face of betrayal by elected leaders at every level.
They are beginning to recognize the moral bankruptcy of politicians attempting to disguise corporate-sponsored attacks on peoples’ rights and livelihoods as fiscal responsibility and reform.
For the first time they have directly experienced the corporate-owned media’s willful distortion of events that they themselves witnessed or participated in, and they are now starting to question what they read in the papers and hear on television.
They’ve gained the understanding – an understanding that is foreign to a culture in which individualism is so relentlessly promoted – that they are part of something much bigger, and that their fates are ultimately bound to those of other people.
They are experiencing a profound sense of solidarity, not just with their neighbors and coworkers, but with citizens from all over the state and different parts of the country, and even around the world.
They have woken up to find themselves in the middle of a brutal class war, and now they have seen a model of how they can fight back. This is as true for high school and college students as it is for many of the people who were previously drawn to the tea party’s populist messages, and also the returning veterans who now realize that instead of being deployed half-way around the world, they could have stayed and fought to defend freedom and democracy here at home.
Recent events in other societies have shown us that this kind of awareness creates energy that is powerful and unpredictable. Win or lose in Wisconsin, there is no way of knowing how and where the seeds planted during this struggle will end up blooming in the coming years.