By Callen Harty
Crowd gathered at the Capitol for an Om the Dome gathering on recall election eve. Photo by Callen Harty.
Since February 16, 2011 I have been protesting the Scott Walker administration–not because I was a sore loser about him winning the election, but because he unleashed bills and policies on Wisconsin that were meant to undermine decades of social compacts. In addition he had misled the public about his intentions, and the way he and his Republican allies in the Legislature pushed through their bills with no thought of compromise, no listening to the other side of the aisle or their constituents, and with no regard for the people to be affected, was as cynical and dishonest as anything I have seen in a lifetime of watching Wisconsin politics. So like others, I did what I could to fight it.
Now it is election day and the citizens of Wisconsin will decide whether Scott Walker should serve out his full term or whether, as the recall law in the Constitution allows, the citizens of the state can remove him from office because they are unhappy with his performance. The Constitution doesn’t require a politician to break the law–we have impeachment for that–but simply that the people of the state do not believe he is upholding his duty to the state. I do not believe that he has served us well and that what he has done in just over a year is so antithetical to who we are as a society that he deserves to be stripped of the office.
For more than a year thousands of us have worked hard to help turn things around in this state. We have protested. We have campaigned. We have sung, and we have made signs. We have talked to neighbors and friends. We have given money and time. We have been arrested by police and harassed by others. We have stood in the snow and rain, in the heat and wind. We have expended incredible amounts of energy, all of it leading to this monumental day.
Now it is up to all of the citizens of the entire state. It’s possible that all of the work that we have done will be for naught. It’s possible that Scott Walker’s millions of dollars in campaign contributions will buy the election, that his relentless barrage of messages may have sunk in enough to make people believe him. It’s also possible that we will make history by electing a new governor and become only the third state in history to recall a governor.
The thing is, I have done what I can. My countless new friends that I have made in the last year have done what they can. We’ve all done things in our own way, contributing in ways where we were strongest and letting others contribute in ways that worked best for them. We have disagreed on tactics, on choices, but we have always had the same end goal in mind, to unseat the man we felt was destroying our state and all we hold dear. And now, it is out of our hands. We will vote, and we will wait for results that are out of our hands as individual voters.
So on Monday night, on recall election eve, I went to one of the more unusual and uplifting events of the last fourteen months, a gathering of people to “om the dome”. Hundreds of people gathered at the Capitol to sing and then to join hands in a large circle around the building. With friends and strangers holding hands in an unbroken circle around the statehouse, with a full moon rising over the horizon, hundreds upon hundreds of voices joined together not in folk songs or protest songs, but in a meditative “om”, connecting all of us spiritually and offering up a prayer to the universe for this state we love so much.
This gathering brought me joy and I felt an incredible peace afterwards. I know that I have done everything I could, and others have, too, and I was able to just offer up all of the work from the last year and give it over to the universe. If we win, we win. If we lose, we lose. This doesn’t mean I’ll be happy if the election doesn’t go the way I want it, but I am at a place of peace with it. I believe that the grass roots effort we have put forth will pay off, but if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. Either way, the work will not end. Whichever candidate comes out on top will have to answer to an awakened and incredibly involved populace. Either way, we need to accept that what is, is. And I am okay with that. I am okay with being called upon to protest more, to write letters and essays, to photograph the next phase of this incredible journey, to be as involved as I can be in moving this state forward today, tomorrow, and for many years into the future, and I will do this no matter which way the electorate turns.
Today I hope the election goes the way I want it. Today I wish peace and solidarity to my brothers and sisters in the ongoing struggle for equality, peace, and justice not only in Wisconsin, but in the world in which we are all equal citizens. It is in the unending struggle that we grow, and for this I am thankful.