As a Minnesotan, I am contractually obligated to hate Wisconsin. Also Iowa, but mostly those stupid cheeseheads. It’s just one of those things: funny accents, hockey and making fun of our neighbor to the East. Maybe it’s because their liquor stores are open on Sundays and ours aren’t.
An only tangentially-related anecdote: This summer I was listening to Lifter Puller at high decibels here in Ithaca because I was feeling homesick, and even though Craig Finn is kind of cheesy and thinks he’s Bruce Springsteen, Fiestas and Fiascos is a really great album, I don’t care what you say. Anyway, there’s this Lifter Puller line that goes, “It’s too late for liquor, but we could get some 3-2.” My roommate was all, “WTF does that mean,” and I was like, “Duh, it’s past 10 p.m., which means that the liquor stores are closed. So he has to buy 3-2 beer at the grocery store, hello.” I was once again met with a blank stare, and that’s when I learned that in most places, you can buy real live beer, not the weird low-alcohol kind, at grocery stores and convenience stores. And that most liquor stores stay open past my middle school bedtime. It’s like I grew up in Utah without even knowing it!
Point of reference: In Wisconsin, you can drink underage in a bar as long as a parent or guardian is present. It’s true. The Internet told me so. So you understand my home state’s resentment of Wisconsinians.
It’s like Norway and Sweden, or North Dakota and South Dakota. Basically the same thing, right? Unless you live there. It’s like sibling rivalry. So here’s the thing. If we run with that “friendly competition” analogy, Minnesota was totally killing it in 2010. We elected a Democratic governor. Wisconsin elected a crazy Tea Party person and got rid of Russ Feingold, all-around amazing person and brilliant Senator. Okay, we have Michele Bachmann. Yes. But she is just a Representative, not an all-powerful Senator (and not from my district, I must stress). Also, just thinking about her gives me a headache. And we have two very liberal U.S. Senators, including the awesome Al Franken. Also, we had Brett Favre. Come to think of it, that wasn’t really a plus in the end. But still. You get my point.
Wisconsin, thus far, is kicking Minnesota’s ass in the New Year. Case in point, defeating rapists in the Super Bowl. Also, I didn’t realize this, but the Packers are the only community-owned, non-profit sports franchise in the country. I learned that from Rachel Maddow. Also, Green Bay is one of the last small towns to have its own team. All we have are fights about who’s going to finance a new stadium in Minneapolis, our biggest city.
And then there’s Madison. When I grow up, I hope I can be as cool as the rogue Democrats of the Wisconsin State House of Representatives. That is some serious old-school, brawl on the floor of the house, Lincoln-sneaking-out-of-his-window shit. It is amazing. And can we talk about those gigantic, peaceful protests? No violence, no arrests, just 60,000 people standing up for what’s right and defending their community.
I know quite a few people who go to school in Madison, because Minnesota and Wisconsin are basically the same, and we have tuition reciprocity (holla at your boy, in-state tuition). Hell, I almost went to Madison for undergrad. This week, I’ve been following my friends’ Facebook updates with rapt attention, and a little bit of jealousy. It’s just so exciting! The opportunity to participate in a real, meaningful protest! To engender actual positive change! Other borderline trite things with exclamation points!
I want more of it. I want to be a part of it.
All the same, I think that the inevitable comparison of Wisconsin to Egypt is a little facetious. For instance, I don’t think that the folks in Madison are risking any serious bodily harm. And the conflation of a budget bill with the overthrow of an entire country’s government is maybe, just a little bit, problematic. Nonetheless, both situations showcase the true power of democracy in action. People working together to fight injustice, and succeeding, is a narrative that we need to hear way more often in this world. It’s a wake-up call.
Take a gander at a real populist movement, Andrew Breitbart. And get used to it. Ain’t no power like the power of the people, cuz the power of the people don’t stop.
Elana Dahlager is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She may be reached at email@example.com . Nutshell Library appears alternate Wednesdays this semester.