What the GOP just did in Wisconsin is a travesty, and it’s frightening. I suspect that Wisconsin’s Republican governor and legislative leaders think of themselves as being good. I’ve covered legislatures, and I doubt that few lawmakers would take such an unpopular stand with protesters at their doors without thinking they were doing the right thing. For the sake the argument, let’s also say that the Wisconsin GOP hasn’t been purchased by a few rich corporations that want to smash unions — a “fact” that may or may not be real. If they’re not playing politics, if they haven’t been bought off, then this is a case where two completely opposed views of goodness are clashing. And that leaves me with the question of how to view these events through the lens of morality.
As I started the first version of this meandering post on Facebook, I had no answers. I still feel largely speechless. Even more complicating is the fact that the latest psychological studies show that humans often decide via their gut on “what’s right” and then find justifications for that non-rational decision. I have no problem believing that the Republicans are engaging in this kind of delusional rationalization. Are those of us, me included, who support collective bargaining also delusional? And yet, from the strict sense of solving a state’s budget problems, one side is going to be right, and the other is going to be wrong.
All of this leaves me wondering if Wisconsin is a case where concepts of morality/goodness are useless, or is goodness to be found not in judging one legislative position as good and right and another as evil. Perhaps the goodness in this situation is in how we approach the situation?
To confront this struggle with goodness in mind, I suspect that I have to acknowledge the humanity of my political opposition. I have to listen to their arguments, and I have to respond in a civil manner. I still get to march. (I think everyone should be on the streets today.) I still get to debate. I still get to employ parliamentary maneuvers to pass legislation, but I have to stop thinking that I’m the only person who has a lock on morality. This is true for both sides.
To me, the events in Wisconsin feel like a turning point of some sort, a going too far that threatens to break civil society apart. I don’t know what happens next, but I suspect it will be explosive in Wisconsin and elsewhere. May we all keep our heads. May we all be able to see the humanity in each other.
Be safe everyone.