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While happening at the same time, they are not the same thing

February 21, 2011

The protests in Wisconsin and those across the Middle East and North Africa, while happening at the same time, are not the same thing.

The fact that Scott Walker was fairly elected to the governorship of Wisconsin is, well, pretty important. He hasn’t overstayed his term. He wasn’t disingenuous during the campaign about what kind of policies he would pursue.  And he isn’t breaking any rules to pass this bill–if anything, it’s the Senate Democrats who are playing outside the bounds.

So I, for one, found the inevitable comparisons between Walker and Mubarak (or Wisconsin and Egypt/Tunisia/etc) to be, at best, silly and at worst, disrespectful to the real oppression suffered under real dictators.

No really.  It matters that the police were helping protesters in wheelchairs get over curbs, not trying to kill them.

I understand that stupid signs find their way to every protest.  So  I advocate for not reading too much into them.  In fact, the inability of organizers to micromanage every sign is actually evidence of a true grassroots movement.  But.  They still make me cringe, especially knowing that the opposition will try to use them to discredit the protest.

On the flip side, there were allusions to current global happenings that I appreciated and found empowering. A handful of signs that read “Walk like an Egyptian!” come to mind. Rather than drawing a false parallel between two very different kinds of leaders, it called Wisconsin’s protesters to persevere, while honoring the commitment and bravery of Egypt’s reformers.

I don’t mean to suggest that the domestic and international protests are completely unrelated.  Flying Whale and I have talked offline about whether or not a global working class consciousness is on the verge of (re-)emerging.  And this sign from an Egyptian man certainly provide some reason for hope.

But until I see the next step forward on that front, I’ll argue  for better signs.

Jonas

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