Janesville61.6°

In Wisconsin, lines in the sand

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Rick Horowitz
February 17, 2011
— “Up, you sleepyheads! Everybody up!”

It’s Daddy, right there in the doorway, and he’s got a big smile on his face. Most mornings, it’s Mommy who wakes us up, but Daddy’s smiling so we know nothing’s wrong with Mommy. Daddy just wanted to.


He’s got a big smile on his face, and he’s bouncing up and down on his toes, up and down. He’s got a special surprise for us, he says.


“How about we all drive over to Madison and watch the governor bash the unions?”


That’s what’s got Daddy so excited.


“What about school, Daddy? We can’t miss school!”


“School shmool!” Daddy says. “You can always go to school, but it’s not every day you can watch the governor put the unions out of business!”


He says it’s like being there for something historical. So we all rush out of bed and brush our teeth and get dressed and eat breakfast (and brush our teeth again), and pretty soon we all jump in the car—Mommy and Daddy and me and Baby Scotty—and we’re on our way to Madison.


It’s only an hour or so from our house to where the demonstrations are, and Daddy’s got the radio on. That’s where he learns everything, he says, from the radio. Daddy says it’s like being in school even when you’re in the car. (Mommy doesn’t listen to the radio nearly as much as Daddy does, which is why Daddy is always telling her she doesn’t know something and he does. Then Mommy gets sad and goes in her room again.)


“What’s a union, Daddy?”


That’s what I don’t know, and Daddy turns the radio down for a second and he says that it’s a group of people, like a gang, only they’re lazy and they’re in the government, and they make lots of money and they take long vacations and they always take advantage of regular people like us. That’s why it’s so exciting that the governor’s going to put them in their place.


“Isn’t the governor in the government?”


That’s the part that’s still confusing me—if the governor’s in the government, doesn’t that mean he’s one of the lazy taking advantage people, too?


But as soon as I say it, Mommy starts laughing right there in the front seat next to Daddy, and Daddy gives her the look he gives her sometimes.


“Don’t be ridiculous!” Daddy says. “That’s totally different!”


And he turns the radio back on, only louder. On the radio, they’re talking about government “bureaucrats.” Sometimes they call them “faceless” government “bureaucrats,” which I know would be really scary if I ever saw one, and how can they go on vacations if they don’t even have faces? That’s a question I just ask myself, though. I can tell Daddy doesn’t want to hear more questions; he’s busy listening to the radio and learning more things.


By the time we get off the highway in Madison, Daddy’s so excited he’s almost jumping.


“Crush ’em!” Daddy’s shouting. “Just send in the tanks and crush ’em!”


That’s when Mommy says there aren’t any tanks, and Daddy says OK but there should be, and Mommy says this is America, and Daddy says OK but America could learn a thing or two about how to handle demonstrators like they do in some other places, and then he says a place I never heard of and Mommy gets very quiet. And then she says she’ll stay in the car when we get there and the rest of us should go on without her.


“You’re sure?” Daddy says when he finally finds a parking space. “You’re missing out on history!”


Mommy doesn’t say anything. She just reaches over and turns off the radio.


Rick Horowitz is a syndicated columnist. You can write to him at rickhoro@execpc.com.

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