I just returned from a rally at the Indiana Statehouse. I joined several hundred people protesting HR6–the measure that would amend the Indiana Constitution to ban same-sex marriage.
This marks the second time in my life I’ve attended a rally; the first was Jon Stewart’s “Rally to Restore Sanity” a few months ago. I went through the tumultuous sixties without ever feeling the urge to demonstrate, although I certainly had opinions about the issues of the day.
I thought about my late-in-life expression of civic activism during several of the speeches, but especially during a rousing talk by State Senator Vi Simpson. She urged those in attendance to join with so many others who are being targeted by unfair legislation–working people, women, teachers and others. And she predicted that the demonstrations we have been seeing in Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio over the past month would continue, because “those in power have overreached, and they have wakened a sleeping giant.”
I think she’s right, and I’m a good example.
I grew up in a household that was anti-union; my father was a small businessman in Anderson, Indiana, and when unions called strikes, his business suffered. My husband is an architect, and no fan of the building trades unions. Our daughter served three terms on the school board, and often was impatient with the Teachers’ union. None of us would be the people you’d expect to side with the unions in the attacks brought by the Governors of Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio. Probably, had those Governors engaged in a less all-out assault, we would have been conflicted on the issue. But when they chose to attack the right to bargain–when they tried to strip away the right of workers to band together to negotiate for wages and benefits–we all recoiled from the abuse of power. We were offended as citizens. We became pro-Union.
When the GOP in Congress attacked Planned Parenthood, I was outraged as a woman. When the GOP at Indiana’s Statehouse proposed to constitutionalize second-class citizenship for gays and lesbians, I was outraged as a mother. When the legislatures in Wisconsin and Indiana dissed the public schools and criticised the “elite” who teach in them, I was outraged both as a former high school English teacher and a citizen.
The Republican Party as it exists today is nothing like the party I supported for 35 years. It is short-sighted and mean-spirited.
If the current GOP agenda has radicalized someone like me, Vi Simpson is right. It really has awakened a sleeping giant.