The votes are counted, the concession speeches made, the victory parties had. Wisconsin, a word that has become as synonymous with divisive politics as it is for cheese and beer, is done with the recalls.
In the end, some change was made. Between the first round of recalls and yesterday’s election, the senate has shifted from Republican to Democratic control. And yet, not much has changed. We still have a union-busting governor and a climate change doubter as lieutenant governor.
The calls, from politicians and citizens, have been pretty consistent. It is time to move forward. It is time to put aside our divisions and find a way to govern together. It is time for our state to heal.
See, I’m not all that interested in moving forward – not because I like the fighting or because I think it is healthy to be so divided that the mere mention of politics in casual conversation makes blood pressures boil.
Obviously, that’s not it. I mean, when both Jesus and Abe Lincoln agree on something (a house divided…) it should grab our attention. But it is not time to move on.
The recall was a movement of voices raised for a critique not of a person but of policy, not of an individual but of an office. This was more than just bashing Walker. This is about the powers and principalities that exist in the world, forces that are bigger than any person.
We should not “get over” the reality that this was the most expensive election in state history and ignore the questions of where the money comes from and how it influences outcomes. We should not “heal” the policies that look to cut the most marginalized from medical assistance (Badger Care); to let that scab over with the infection of blaming poverty on those living in the midst of it is no healing at all. We cannot unite on a front that has makes teachers and parks workers the enemy of the people. We cannot let this stand.
The recall was a tool of the system we have in place. It was a political maneuver to express a higher purpose. It was a means, not the end.
The greater purpose is one that keeps the conversation alive. The higher calling is to recognize that, no, we can’t all just get along. Not while we are willing to pit the least of these against the greatest of these, not while we are going to allow the most vulnerable to get thrown under the campaign bus, not while the poverty and racism and division in our cities, our states and our nation remain. We will not be silent.
We don’t have to shout either. We don’t need to occupy the capitol building with drum circles or chants – so long as we are talking. So long as we can speak our truth and find solutions that make sense for the widows, orphans and strangers of our society. And it happens one-on-one, it happens when neighbors get together, it happens when suburban church members share a meal with members of my inner city congregation, it happens when we recognize there is no us and them only we.
Democrats and unions can be just as blind, too. Denominations can be just as corrupt or unwilling to engage. The powers and principalities of the world are not only seen on the far right or on FOXNews. All these structures are bigger than any one person.
The forces against people with legitimate differences of opinions speaking together are legion. We are possessed with ideology and talking points that distract from the real and actual suffering of sisters and brothers. Let those who have ears hear.
And then, when those who have ears won’t listen, when the forces are so great that a still, small voice spoken through one person is ignored, when the values of reconciliation for the sake of the nation rather than division for the sake the next election are told to shut up, then we shall speak. We shall shout. We will organize and protest, we will bang on our drums and sing the Lord’s song in a strange land.
The threats to the poor and the central city are just as real this morning as they were yesterday. The cry of the oppressed still rings out in Milwaukee and Racine, Green Bay and Madison.
This is not a moment to move on. It is a time to speak truth. Win or lose. In shouts if necessary, but with the love of all in our hearts and the call to justice in our bones.
This is our good news and it must be spoken.
Steve Jerbi is pastor of All Peoples Church in Milwaukee, Wis.