Walk Like An Egyptian

No Simo to be seen in Cairo, and God’s Son has no place in Madison

By Sarah Braasch

In loving memory of my baby brother, Jacob Michael Braasch (01/28/86 – 02/02/10)

I am sure that most of you are aware of the massive grassroots demonstrations that have been taking place at the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison in response to Governor Scott Walker’s emergency budget repair bill. I have been demonstrating all week on behalf of workers’ rights and public employees and unions, alongside public school teachers and firefighters and nurses and many, many more hardworking, middle class workers and their families.

I have been amazed by how peaceful and civil the protests have been, even when a small Tea Party contingent showed up on Saturday, February 19th. The Capitol Square has been teeming with tens of thousands of teachers, students, kids, and families. There is an overwhelming spirit of camaraderie and purpose. Despite the gravity of the historical and political moment, the protests have been fun and festive, with musical acts and drum circles and insanely clever protest signs. Each and every time the firefighters procession shows up, with firefighters in uniform and led by bagpipes, the crowd goes wild. The firefighters were exempted from Walker’s attacks on the other public employee unions, but they have been coming out in force to support their brother and sister unions.

Many of the protest signs reference the recent demonstrations in Egypt, which toppled Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak, and many political pundits in the media have commented on similarities between the two movements. Both movements are fights for democracy (and the movement in Madison does have far reaching implications for the future of the Democratic Party and democracy in the United States, because the downfall of the unions would be the downfall, after Citizens United, of the last remaining institutions that give the people any kind of a real voice in our elections, which are now overwhelmed by the political campaign contributions of corporations). But, it does seem a bit extreme to compare those risking their lives to overthrow a brutal dictatorial regime with Governor Scott Walker’s implicit threat to call out the National Guard to quell the peaceful protests of public school teachers and his explicit threat to lay off thousands of public employees if his demands are not met.

But, there is one aspect of the demonstrations in Egypt, which I would like to see duplicated in Madison. As was reported by most mainstream media outlets in the English-speaking world, almost all of the demonstrations in Egypt were secular, and purposefully and purposely so. While the Muslim Brotherhood played a role in the protests, as part of a larger coalition of democracy advocates, including secular democracy and civil society advocates, the Brotherhood agreed to refrain from using any religious slogans and from taking an obvious leadership position. Additionally, displays of religiosity were discouraged at the protests.

The Egyptians knew that the whole world was watching them, waiting to dismiss and discredit their movement as theocratic, not democratic. (It remains to be seen how steadfast will be the Muslim Brotherhood’s commitment to secularism. I, for one, am not expecting any miracles, but, for now, they have at least demonstrated an ability to abstain from explicit Islamism when politically expedient.) The Egyptians knew they had everything to gain, i.e., worldwide support for their grassroots movement to overthrow Mubarak, by remaining secular. They also understood how easily they could lose global public approbation, by casting their movement as overtly religious, with the implied goals of establishing an Islamic theocracy and implementing Sharia (Muslim law). They also understood the power of a visible female presence at the demonstrations, as an ostensible manifestation of secularism, and granted the women participating in the protests a reprieve from their gender punishment of unrelenting verbal and physical sexual harassment and assault, which is the norm on the streets of Cairo. (The vicious sexual assault on reporter Lara Logan, while she was covering the victory celebrations, certainly does not bode well for the status of women in the Egyptian public sphere.)

Religiosity is the determining criterion by which the West judges Egypt’s resolve for both democracy and women’s rights. And, rightfully so. Religiosity and democracy are at odds with one another; they are mutually incompatible, as are religiosity and women’s rights. They are overlapping magisteria, which destroy one another, like matter and anti-matter, releasing devastating gamma radiation in the process. That is why Thomas Jefferson built up a wall of separation between state and church, to avoid just such a destructive conflagration.

As quick as the protesters are to make comparisons between Wisconsin and Egypt, I wish Wisconsin would mimic the Egyptians’ insistence on maintaining the secular nature of their demonstrations. I wish the organizers and protesters in Madison were worried about keeping the protests democratic, not theocratic, for fear of being discredited.

Now, to be fair, the protests in Madison have been largely secular. But, to my dismay, each day of the protest has had to suffer one or another speaker’s ill-conceived attempts to inject Jesus Christ into the proceedings. Someone feels the need to pray to Jesus or refer to Jesus or try to motivate us by preaching and praising the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When this occurs, most of the crowd seems palpably uncomfortable, and everyone sort of looks around at each other quizzically and incredulously. A few persons feel obligated to humor the speaker and embark on half-hearted and bungled renditions of whichever hymn or prayer.

But, I resent the concerted crescendo of Christianity being perpetrated upon the masses at the Capitol. Ours is a secular government. I think it represents a complete miscalculation on the part of the perpetrators. This began as and remains a secular, democratic movement with secular, democratic aims. I do not want to see it usurped or adulterated or obscured by religionist interlopers. Additionally, those who are waging a war on workers’ rights and public and private sector unions and the lower and middle classes are those same persons who are waging a war on women and children and social safety nets, and they typically invoke religious ideology as justification for their malfeasance. They would love nothing more than to see the U.S. turned into a White American Christian Theocracy. The evangelical Scott Walker (who stated at his inauguration prayer breakfast that there is no “freedom from religion”) ran on a platform that cow-towed to the religious right and was anti-gay, anti-abortion, and anti-stem cell research. At his inauguration prayer breakfast, he also made clear that “our freedoms are derived” from the “Great Creator” and “not the government.” The religionists’ insistence upon insinuating themselves into the protests in Madison comes across as unctuous and opportunistic and mercenary.

And, of course, because the Christianists are attempting to impose Christian religious law upon the American citizenry and not Sharia, they are incapable of appreciating the double standard of judging the Egyptian protesters’ commitment to democracy according to their displays of religiosity, but not the Wisconsin protesters. In their minds, Christianity is compatible with democracy, but Islam is not. This is a fallacy. When the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops drafts U.S. federal legislation, which relegates American women to sub-human status, something has gone very, very wrong. This is Sharia. It is Christian Sharia. And, there is nothing democratic, and everything theocratic, about that. I would love to see how the Christianists would respond if someone stepped up to the podium in front of the Capitol and declared the fight for workers’ rights an Islamic jihad, in the proud tradition of Mohammed’s example.

Go sell crazy somewhere else. We don’t want any in Cairo. And, we don’t want any in Madison.











About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Andrew T.

    Thank you for focusing attention on this; both the demonstrations themselves and their religious and secular implications.

    Wisconsin is the home of Bob La Follette, the nation’s first equal-rights bill, and the Freedom From Religion Foundation…the “notoriously liberal” state Dawkins referred to in The God Delusion. This is the place I live, and the place where history is unfolding in our backyards…though I feel unfortunate that it’s under these terms.

    How this series of events wound up unfolding is a mix of factors. I owe it up to a combination of unfettered corporate donations, the Republicans’ descent into delusion, an opponent’s relatively weak campaign, and a critical mass of latent bigots in the ultraconservative Catholic and Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod churches lending Mr. Walker support. (I’m sure that many of those people dropped their support like a hot rock once the practical effects of his policies on their well-being started bearing out, but it’s a little too late now.)

    The philosophy that an economic caste consists of chattel to be utilized and controlled by corporations (or a corporately-controlled state) in any way they see fit has eerie parallels to the mentalities of religiously-justified social conservatism…whether it’s GLBT people being moral inferiors undeserving of equal rights, women powerlessly submitting to abusive husbands, or “other” races being sub-human animals fit to own as slaves. When I think in those terms, the common threads between the “social” and “economic” aspects of conservative thought start to make sense…

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Wisconsin is also the home of (but not birthplace of) the John Birch Society, and of Joseph McCarthy, and of a whole series of serial killers.

  • Sarah Braasch

    Wisconsin is definitely an interesting mix of the progressive and the regressive.

  • John Nernoff

    I have only taken a superficial look at this situation. From the back and forth I have concluded that sincere good faith negotiations are necessary for both sides. Union busting is not a solution, but neither is excessive greed, overwhelming pension plans and endless benefits. Let’s face it, governments are broke and they can’t afford endless largess to be paid out to gov’t employees no matter how good they are at their jobs.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    From what I understand, the unions were perfectly willing to concede to Walker most of the pay cuts he was asking for. The protests are over a completely different issue: the fact that he demanded the complete elimination of their collective bargaining rights, that he did so without any negotiation or warning, and that he attempted to ram the bill through the legislature in an extraordinarily short time with no advance notice. That isn’t negotiation; that’s an all-out assault on the very existence of unions. The fact that he exempted the police and firefighter unions, which supported his campaign, from this measure only underscores the nakedly political aspect of it.

    Also, I’d say that if union pensions and benefits seem excessive, that’s only in comparison to most private sector employees, for whom comparable benefits are rapidly vanishing or non-existent.

  • http://Daylightatheism.org J. James

    John, you are absolutely correct. This sticky issue deserves a moderate touch, something both sides can agree on. I heard somewhere that a good compromise leaves both sides angry. Truer words have never been spoken. Almost every time I delve into politics, I immediately run into the brick wall of a fallacy that everyone has to some extent: “Because I am right on some facet of an issue, what you propose automatically won’t work, AND it means you’re wrong on other parts of the issue, too.”

    Let’s observe both sides of the issue. The Liberals are correct in that the Republicans are being pigheaded, and are trampling on their right to organize. As if that weren’t enough, they gave in to the Republican’s demands but they STILL want the legislation. The Republicans are right in that Unions are compensated nearly half again as much as an equivalent non-public worker, which is utterly unsustainable given the fact that there IS. NO. MONEY. None! It’s insanity on the taxpayer’s dime, and that is unacceptable.

    But both sides bungled things badly. Instead of giving the Republicans reasonable negotiations, those yellow Democrats turned tail and fled! How immature and cowardly! It is beneath American politics. The Republicans, though, don’t seem to care about worker’s rights and still want to press forward after their demands were agreed to! The smart thing to do is to temporarily suspend collective bargaining if the public Unions do not agree to budgetary measures.

  • Nathaniel

    You are incorrect. The pension is not on the taxpayer’s dime. All the pensions come from the employees.

    Here’s how it works. In collective negotiation, historically public sector unions have agreed to lower year by year pay, and in exchange some money is allocated for the pension of different employees based on their position and pay.

    In other words, when the unions agreed to accept the cut in benefits, they were accepting a pay cut for their workers, a pay cut taking away money that they had put into the system. There is no two sides here. This is an assault on one of the few types of big organizations left that can counteract the influence of corporations. And that is why they must go.

  • http://twitter.com/jtradke jtradke

    J. James:

    > How immature and cowardly!

    The State Senate Democrats had no choice if they wished to preserve collective bargaining rights for the public unions. Wisconsin’s 33-member Senate requires 20 members to make a quorum, and there are 19 Republicans, all of whom are going to vote for Walker’s bill as it stands, without holding debate or negotiations due to the “emergency” nature of the bill. If even one Democrat stepped foot in the Capitol, they would have a quorum, and the bill would pass.

    The cowardly thing would have been to show up for the vote, allow this absurd and overreaching measure to pass, and go home to their families. The Democrats did what they needed to do to stand up for their principles.

    I fail to see the cowardice in any of their actions.

  • http://daylightatheism.org J. James

    @Nathaniel
    I’m aware of that. Nowhere did I mention pensions. I was talking about pay and all benefits. After five years they get health care for life, and they are paid much more. But answer me this: just how much is too much? Can a Democrat even be WRONG? Is that even possible? Is there even a line? Like paying a public librarian a 250,000 dollar annual pension in Bell, California, even when the payment is a net loss? Or should we stop at giving them yachts made of solid platinum? They have a right to bargain, sure, but when the government is broke it’s time to say, “Sacrifice a little. The taxpayers are sacrificing for you.”

    @jtradke They could have stayed and convinced the Republicans to put a time limit on it, like with Bush’s tax cuts. They could have stayed and made it better, then support it.They could have done a lot of other things. But why did you ignore my criticism of the Republicans, hmm? I called them pigheaded, didn’t I? Or are your precious, perfect Democrats above reproach…?

  • http://www.punkassblog.com Antigone

    J. James-

    The government is only broke because Walker made it so. Is there a line on how much money government workers should make? Yes, the exact same limits that the private market has. I believe the highest paid person in the United States is Bill Gates at 53 billion dollars. When we pay a single government employee more than that, I’ll of course jump up and down and scream about our waste of tax payers dollars.

    On a less factitious note, Wisconsin teachers make $46,000/ annum (on average; since their starting salary is a joke at 25,000/ year, and their increases per year are currently below national average, that’s going to continue to go down). I hardly think that is excessive; you can make more than that managing a fairly successful Taco Bell, and you have to have more skills (and education) to be a teacher. No one becomes wealthy being a teacher: it is a livable, middle class wage and much else. I don’t understand this whole “We’re paying their salary” bullshit. CEOs do less work, screw over more people’s lives, and live super extravagantly on millions of dollars a year, and we just shrug our shoulders and say “Well, they earned it”. That’s “our” money too- every time you buy gas, or a computer, or any of the other billions of things you buy you’re paying their salary, and no one complains about that. (And if you say “We have to pay taxes, we don’t have to buy clothes, you’re wrong on both counts. If you don’t want to pay taxes, you can choose not to have enough money to pay taxes, or leave the US. If, however, you’d like to live a comfortable existence, you have to pay for clothes).

    They have a right to bargain. And if the governor was sincere in his desire to balance the budget for the best of everyone in the state (and, we know he isn’t- the fake prank call alone should convince everyone of that, but his own actions dictate that he isn’t), he would have started with himself. If making the 20th highest average paycheck in the United States is “too excessive” for Wisconsin, than making the 19th highest salary for Governors definitely is. But he didn’t- in fact he proposed to raise his. So, if we’re going to complain about state employees making to much, and a need to balance the budget, start at the top, and actually balance the budget.

  • 2-D Man

    After five years they get health care for life, and they are paid much more.

    Citation please?

    Is there even a line? Like paying a public librarian a 250,000 dollar annual pension in Bell, California, even when the payment is a net loss?

    Has this ever happened? Seriously, where are you getting this?

    Or should we stop at giving them yachts made of solid platinum?

    Ah, deliberate distortion of an opponent’s position for rhetorical purposes, the Creationist Waltz Number 4 in C Major (I think they also call it a “yarn-man”, or something). That explains where you’re getting it.

    They could have stayed and convinced the Republicans to put a time limit on it, like with Bush’s tax cuts. They could have stayed and made it better, then support it…. I called [the Republicans] pigheaded, didn’t I?

    See, that last sentence doesn’t square with the first part of that quote; the first part doesn’t square with reality. Keep in mind that when this bill passed the State Assembly in some sort of bizarre surprise vote, which didn’t even take the time to count votes from all members. Governor Walker stated pretty clearly when he thought that he was speaking with David Koch:

    If they think I’m caving, they’ve been asleep for the last eight years ’cause I’ve taken on every major battle in Milwaukee County, and won even in a county where I’m overwhelmingly overpowered, politically because we don’t budge.[Em. added]

    he also said,

    We’re not compromising, we’re not.

    and don’t forget

    An interesting idea that was brought up to me this morning by my Chief of Staff, we won’t do it until tomorrow is putting out an appeal to the democrat leader that I would be willing to sit down to talk to him, the assembly democrat leader, plus the other two republican leaders. Talk, not negotiate, and listen to what they have to say if they will in turn, I’ll only do it if all 14 of them come back and sit down in the state assembly, they can recess it to come back and talk to me but they have to come back there. The reason for that is we’re verifying it this afternoon, but legally we believe once they’ve gone into session, they don’t physically have to be there. If they actually in session that day and they take a recess, the 19 senate republicans could then go into action and they’d have a quorum because they started out that way. We’re double checking that but that would be the only if you heard that I was talking to them, that would be the only reason why we would only do it if they came back to the capitol with all 14 of them. And my sense is, hell, I’ll talk to them-you want to yell at me for an hour, you know, I’m used to that. I can deal with that but I’m not negotiating.

    Get that? Not only is he “not negotiating”, the plan was to bring the senators back, then pull them out of the chambers for a “discussion” and have the vote without them there. What the hell about this situation makes you think that any form of negotiation is possible with these people?

  • http://blog.oldnewatheist.com/ jim coufal

    Please forgive the length of the following, but please do read.

    The time seems opportune for a large march/rally on Albany, as described below in a piece written for my weekly column in the Madison County Courier. I am seeking your active help—involvement and support—to organize such a rally. The date of April 1st would offer rich symbolic opportunities.

    Thanks for your consideration.

    Jim Coufal
    315-655-2788

    Million Person March on Albany: A Challenge

    I’m about to take a flyer here, some may consider it pretentious. So be it. We know that our New York State Legislature has been declared the most dysfunctional out of 50 state legislatures. Hell, we knew it before it was declared so because we’ve lived with it for years. We grouse about it, moan and groan, some get involved in trying to change in it, but mostly we just go along. It’s become a mark of living in New York, sort of like snow in Central New York. And our legislature snows us too.

    It strikes me that it’s time to do something about our state woes other than complain, with good examples of what to do all around us. I’ll explain where it comes from below, but here is my challenge, in the form of a question. Will you commit to engaging in a march on Albany, a million person march being the goal? I don’t ask, will you think about being part of such a march, or will you say “yes” but then not show up. Will you make a strong and firm commitment to being part of a march?

    Several months ago, Susan Arbetter, the National Public Radio political reporter and radio show host from Albany spoke at a Cazenovia forum. Ms. Arbetter specifically covered and talked about our state legislature. After she described the dysfunctional legislature, caused obviously by dysfunctional legislators, there was a Q&A session. I asked what individuals could do to bring about change, other than letters, e-mails, and phone calls. Almost without pause, she replied, “A million person march to Albany would get their attention.”

    The idea festered in my head and once in a while I’d think about it. Wouldn’t it be great if somebody brought it about and what would be the reaction? Then, more recently and suddenly, we witnessed what happened in Tunisia and Egypt, with continuing public rallies currently going on in other countries. These rallies were large and loud but mostly non-violent except when there was state-sponsored violence. The festering in my head got louder. We’re somebody!

    I mentioned this in a discussion group and later one member of that group brought me a copy of an article describing what happened in England. It started with a few people talking over coffee about how things never changed for the good. Their first rally was less than a hundred people, then hundreds; first in one place, then across the country. And like in
    Tunisia and Egypt, they got the results they were seeking.

    Why can’t we here in Cazenovia and Madison County be the impetus? Clearly, I’m talking about a non-violent (though perhaps loud and raucous) march, and a non-partisan march. The change we desire would need to be discussed and clear beforehand, but I believe there are non-partisan ideas we can rally behind to demand change now. Things like term limits, redistricting, stronger ethics laws, fewer perks and pork for the legislators, possibly even public funding of campaigns. None of these things or others will come about unless we finally stand up and demand they happen.

    Let me be clear. I’m not guaranteeing such a march will happen. I’m an old man and not very computer literate and the success of the recent rallies have involved much electronic communications. I’m floating a trial balloon to see if I should continue investigating. Use my listed MP3 e-mail address to respond; let me know if you would commit to the march and if you would be willing to work on its happening.

    It has been quoted many times, probably most often read and passed by with a shrug as being true, but let somebody else do it. It’s so appropriate I must end with it.

    The famous anthropologist Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

    What say ye?

  • http://daylightatheism.org J. James

    @Antigone
    Again, bringing up things that aren’t even at issue here. Of COURSE these employees have the right to collectively bargain! Whether they are listened to is another matter. Whether their demands can even be met by a near-bankrupt government is another matter.

    Teachers are perennially used as an example of underappreciated public workers, for good reason. But to compare them to all other public workers would be incorrect. The results are skewed by the likes of Walker himself! You are absolutely correct! Perhaps I should restate my stance: I do not support Walker or his huge salary. I don’t support big public Unions either(old Democrat saying, “I don’t agree with what you have to say but I’ll fight to the death to defend your right to say it”) and I CERTAINLY don’t support big corporations whose evil and greed got us into this quagmire in the first place! The rich, whether they are Walkers or Gates, need a proper tax, not this flat-tax bullshit. Speaking of which, Gates himself would probably deduct almost all of it for charity. But I digress. I can recognize that there are kernels of truth in varying degrees in all these claims. Again, supporting a small part of something does NOT mean you condone all of it. Like Walker’s refusal to bargain with the Unions. Or Unions taking way past their due in a crisis, for goodness’ sake, no matter if it means layoffs. To be sure, most of the blame is on Walker, but again, I hardly think we can afford to contribute extra benefits and pay to Unions at the risk of losing someone’s livelyhood.

  • http://Daylightatheism.org J. James

    Oh, and also I’d like to adress the point I heard somewhere about the Government having bigger fish to fry: HELL YES! What’s with the freaking taxpayer subsidies on multi-billion dollar industries like fast food?! Or vast military spending on things the military itself refuses! It’s madness! Walker could be doing a lot more but instead he decides to butt heads with what’s practically a nonissue since the Unions agreed to his terms.

    I think we agree more than you all would think.

  • http://ggracchus.blogspot.com/ Gaius Sempronius Grachus

    Sarah,

    I agree with you that religiosity is a key criterion by which we should judge the demonstrators, what they want, and any eventual new government.

    I must say I have been constantly disappointed by what almost deserves to be called a massive cover-up, the tendency of both the main stream media and the liberal blogosphere to both under-rate the likelihood of an Egyptian democratic lurch toward theocracy and simply not care much about it.

    The truth is that liberals, though they care to a degree about secularism at home in their battles with Christianists, seem to care very little, if at all, about it abroad where the battle, despite the claims of KOS and his supporters, is against a much more retrograde enemy religion and religious population.

    That same odd disparity goes back at least to the time of the Iranian Revolution and perhaps even before that.

    I have a suspicion – though it is only that – perhaps partially confirmed by your post that atheist liberals as a group, unlike the others, are as sensitive to the horrors of religion in political power abroad as they are to the dangers of Christianism at home.

    And that they are more consistently and determinedly secularist both at home and abroad than the others.

    I could be wrong, of course.

    My only criticism of your post would be that, strictly speaking, it isn’t democracy that political religion is incompatible with but secularism.

    Anti-secularist democracy and democratic anti-secularism are perfectly possible, as seen when the American bishops draft legislation and the Christian right in congress makes every effort to enact it in a perfectly lawful and obviously democratic manner.

    Or, for that matter, as could be seen when, in the Algeria of the early 1990s, the Islamic Salvation Front came within an inch of taking over that country in perfectly free and honest elections.

    Still, pretty much nobody is willing to accept democracy no matter where it leads.

    Secularists in fact accept anti-democratic means of staving off theocracy (enshrining separationism in the First Amendment, for example, and outlawing religious parties in various Muslim countries) and theocrats accept anti-democratic means of ensuring it (witness the clerical supremacy built into the Iranian constitution and the various pro-life, school prayer, and Christian nation Amendments Christianists have proposed for the American constitution).

    Anyway, thanks for the post.

    And thanks for fighting the good fight in Madison.

    As to the people who keep bringing religion into it, it’s entirely possible they are provocateurs intent on making the demonstrators look less – or at any rate otherwise – committed to Jesus than the Christian right and a very great many Americans beyond that would want them to be – as, indeed, I expect they are.

    Thanks again.

  • http://www.punkassblog.com Antigone

    The problem is a matter of brass tacks: the teachers’ and public servants’ unions are not taking “way past their due in their crisis”. They were going to agree to the money issue, provided it was temporary. That once this (completely manufactured due to greed and incompetence) budget crisis was over, they wanted to get their due by being able to stay in the unions. The demonstrations aren’t over the fact that this governor is hurting the workers (for no good reason) financially this year; they are over the fact that they want their share of the pie when this “crisis” is over. Their demands are not excessive, and they aren’t “way past their due”. They make an okay, but not extravagant by any means, living.

    So, I’m not willing to go the route of “there is a kernel of truth in both sides and the best position is the compromise”. In this case, it isn’t true. In many cases, it isn’t true. There’s what is, and there is what isn’t.

  • monkeymind

    @J. James:

    Again, bringing up things that aren’t even at issue here. Of COURSE these employees have the right to collectively bargain!

    Uh, I thought that was the central issue? Walker is trying to take away that right, as I understand it.

    Re: the religious sentiments – I think “God bleach you” is pretty funny. I can’t even figure out if it’s a blessing or a curse. Might be a blessing if you have (or are) an unsightly stain. Or if you have dark roots.

  • http://twitter.com/jtradke jtradke

    J. James:

    By fallaciously extrapolating my support of the specific actions of the WI State Senate Democrats into fawning adoration for them, when I’ve given you no reason to, it appears that you’re not not actually interested in engaging in a dialog at all.

    Being a sporting sort of fellow, I’ll give it one more shot, though.

    They could have stayed and convinced the Republicans to put a time limit on it, like with Bush’s tax cuts. They could have stayed and made it better, then support it.They could have done a lot of other things.

    It is my understanding that actually none of that was possible. Why have none of the Senate Republicans mentioned possible compromises yet? (Except for maybe one – I read somewhere on Twitter this morning that one of the 19 may be ready to listen.) As I understand it, they did the only thing they could in order to prevent the passage of the bill as it was written. In order to enable compromise, they had to block quorum.

  • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com/ Verbose Stoic

    Sarah,

    “Religiosity is the determining criterion by which the West judges Egypt’s resolve for both democracy and women’s rights. And, rightfully so. Religiosity and democracy are at odds with one another; they are mutually incompatible, as are religiosity and women’s rights. They are overlapping magisteria, which destroy one another, like matter and anti-matter, releasing devastating gamma radiation in the process. That is why Thomas Jefferson built up a wall of separation between state and church, to avoid just such a destructive conflagration. ”

    And yet, one of the staunch Western democracies that had an influence over many of the others actually has an official religion: England/Great Britain, and it had influence over Canada, Australia, and New Zealand’s democracies at least. And it was the Supreme Court in England that game women the right to vote in Canada, by ruling that women are indeed persons under the law (in Canada at the time, the last court of appeal was the Supreme Court in England). Which, you’ll recall, actually has a state religion, which was not the case in Canada at the time (I believe). So it seems that they may not be as incompatible as you suggest.

    “This began as and remains a secular, democratic movement with secular, democratic aims. I do not want to see it usurped or adulterated or obscured by religionist interlopers.”

    So … you’re saying that even if they agree with your ideals, if they do so because of their religion they aren’t welcome and you don’t want their vocal support?

    “Additionally, those who are waging a war on workers’ rights and public and private sector unions and the lower and middle classes are those same persons who are waging a war on women and children and social safety nets, and they typically invoke religious ideology as justification for their malfeasance. They would love nothing more than to see the U.S. turned into a White American Christian Theocracy. The evangelical Scott Walker (who stated at his inauguration prayer breakfast that there is no “freedom from religion”) ran on a platform that cow-towed to the religious right and was anti-gay, anti-abortion, and anti-stem cell research. At his inauguration prayer breakfast, he also made clear that “our freedoms are derived” from the “Great Creator” and “not the government.” The religionists’ insistence upon insinuating themselves into the protests in Madison comes across as unctuous and opportunistic and mercenary. ”

    So … Scott Walker and others are using religion to support their claims, there are people who don’t think that religion does support their actions, and what you seem to want is for those people who disagree that their religion — even Christianity — supports those actions and believe that, in fact, their religion says that these actions should be done is for them to not express that in these protests because, you know, demonstrating that not all religions say the same things and support these policies is not a good thing, right? Especially considering that one of the charges against moderate religious people is that they don’t stand up enough against the more radical religions; telling them to not do that when they’re willing to seems a bit unfair.

  • Sarah Braasch

    The thing that is so great about the protests is that there are young and old, hipster college kids and weathered steel workers, Dems and Republicans, private and public sector employees, union workers and non-union workers. They have come together to fight for a secular, democratic movement.

    Religion is divisive and anti-democratic.

    Without secularism, our liberal constitutional democracy will devolve into religious communitarianism, and no one will suffer more than women and children.

    Democracy has come to mean not simply a might makes right moral majoritarian democracy, which lends itself so well to religious communitarianism, but democracy has come to mean a form of government based upon secularism, individual human rights, and rule of law.

    Let’s keep it that way.

    Of course, religion is compatible with democracy, when the government ignores religion and religious law and acts as if it is wholly secular.

    Of course, all are welcome, but they are not welcome to try to impose their version of religious law, whatever that may be, upon me or anyone else, and they are not welcome to try to lobby our secular government to do the same.

    Your argument, Verbose Stoic, seems to be that if one majority group gets to impose their version of religious law upon others, then all religious groups should get the same opportunity to impose their versions of religious law upon others, and we’ll just let them duke it out, and the most powerful group will win and get to establish their version of theocracy upon everyone else. And, this is still democracy, just a simple moral majoritarian version, but that that’s somehow more democratic than a secular, liberal, constitutional democracy.

    Yeah, I think I’m going to stick with secularism.

  • http://Daylightatheism.org J. James

    @monkeymind
    You misunderstand. It’s not at issue HERE, on Daylight Atheism. I am reasonably sure that everyone here agrees with Public Union’s basic right to organize.
    @jdrake
    When the Democrats showed by adamantly refusing to negotiate on this bill that it is their intention to block it anyway, don’t you think that could have affected their ability to negotiate in the first place…? Something sure seems fishy there! If they tried to, then they obviously would have had better chances than if they refuse to negotiate at all!
    @Antigone
    Look, you’re agruing against positions I don’t even hold. Classic straw-man arguments. I already addressed those earlier. Teachers do not all unions represent, savvy? Walker, bureaucrats, and their ilk are responsible for making all of this horrid pork that has us paying through the nose to give them huge salaries, weeks of paid vacation, golden parachute pensions and lifetime aristocrat-class health care after five years that we wretched non-senator, governor, whatever(or) peons don’t get. The very tippy-top, the police chiefs and head librarians and such. Not the teachers. That’s for sure.

    Also, who said that the “kernels of truth” were balanced? Scott Walker may have been right in that Public workers are overpaid, but the glowing neon bullseye falls straight back on him. Whereas the Democrats are almost entirely right, but still they handled things badly and insist on keeping the status quo of unsustainable government growth and waste. Finally, I ask you to find out how much automatically-deducted union dues go to political campaigns, mostly for Democrats. Is that fair?

  • Nathaniel

    The whole “overpaid and overcompensated” thing is a crock of crap. Rather than relying on what people like Walker are saying, someone actually crunched numbers. What they found is after accounting for everything, benefits included, public workers in Wisconsin earn 4.6% an average compared to private workers.

  • http://www.punkassblog.com Antigone

    I was using the teachers pay in Wisconsin, since they are the ones that are the driving force in these protests.The police are exempt from Walker’s law (though they have come out in support of the unions anyway). But, if you’re going to say “bureaucrat” I’ll go with public servants compensation then:

    Here’s the graph on the public servants and their education, and what they can make in the private sector (including benefits): http://www.epi.org/economic_snapshots/entry/wisconsin_public_servants_already_face_a_compensation_penalty

    Again, I say, the “bureaucrats” that this was aimed at are not eating taxpayer steak and caviar. The guy that runs the DMV is not going home to a mansion. The secretary that takes the complaints at the capitol building is not driving home in an Audi. The guy that has to process the data entry for putting birth certificates into a centralized mainframe is not drinking Crystal. Even the librarians, whom you seem to have such a haterade for, are not getting extreme salaries: http://www.indeed.com/salary/q-Librarian-l-Wisconsin.html

    The highest on that list is 77,000 dollars/ year for a supervisory position that requires a masters and at least 5 years experience.

    So, for you to say that “Scott Walker may have been right in the Public workers are overpaid” I say “No, he isn’t”. They are not overpaid. It is not overpaid to make enough money to support yourself.

    Now, to your last question: according to open secrets, most, but not all, of most unions, but not all, go to the Democrats http://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/list.php

    I’m not seeing what exactly isn’t fair about it. If I ran a union, and I had to lobby for influence and favorable laws, I’d probably be swinging it to the Democrats too more than the Republicans, just like if I ran a corporation, I’d probably be swinging that cash to the Republicans (or both sides, just to hedge my bets). If the argument is “This money buys an inordinate amount of influence and is counter-democratic” I’d go “Of course it fucking is- but if the corporations are going to do it, then the unions better damn well do it to”. (I’d use profanity like that as well: seriously, campaign contributions are FUCKED UP). But you’d have to take that up with the Citizen’s decision, not with me. I’d gladly say “No single red cent to any campaign from any person, corporation, or organization. Campaigns are funded from a strict government coffer, ever one gets the same amount of money and media time. Campaign ads are to be expository, and at least 5 minutes long”. But, the Supreme Court says that’s a violation of free speech in the land where money = speech.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    Thanks, Antigone, for that outstanding research putting this situation in context. Truthfully, I was surprised to read that and see how little public sector workers make in Wisconsin. I live in New York City, so my perspective on cost of living is probably skewed, but even so, I’m surprised they were as willing to agree to the pay cuts as they were. Those are very modest salaries by any measure, which just underscores the point that the Republicans’ real and undisguised aim is to break the unions entirely, not to rein in allegedly out-of-control salary expenses.

    And everyone should thank Sarah for this great piece of original reporting! I was in Madison just a few months ago for the FFRF convention, and took a tour of the state capitol on my last day there. It’s a huge, gorgeous Beaux-Arts building, with a striking multi-level central rotunda. It must look even more beautiful filled to the roof with protesters exercising their First Amendment rights!

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    Good post Sarah.

    J. James,

    When the Democrats showed by adamantly refusing to negotiate on this bill that it is their intention to block it anyway, don’t you think that could have affected their ability to negotiate in the first place…? Something sure seems fishy there! If they tried to, then they obviously would have had better chances than if they refuse to negotiate at all!

    Wow.

    So, the Rethuglicans try to ram through a bill that the Democrats can’t block and can’t negotiate, because the Rethugs won’t negotiate with them, and end up leaving the state to block quorum – and somehow it’s the Dems who won’t negotiate. Meanwhile, the unions already negotiated and agreed to cuts with the governor and then the governor given an inch decided to try and ram a mile through everyone with underhanded tactics, but it’s the Dems that are unwilling to negotiate? C’mon, give us all a break here.

  • http://howardmorey.blogspot.com feste

    Wisconsinite here. J. James:

    Finally, I ask you to find out how much automatically-deducted union dues go to political campaigns, mostly for Democrats. Is that fair?

    On union dues going to political causes: In Wisconsin, all public employees can opt out of giving dues to the political wing of their union. My mom’s a staunch Republican and she’s been opting out for years. Her union dues don’t go to support anything political.

    I have a little bit on the issue on my blog post for the 1st of March.

    Peace.


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