So much of 2011 has been dominated by the political chaos in Wisconsin since Scott Walker took office as governor. I've learned many valuable lessons since then. Perhaps I'll write about more of them, but for now, there is one lesson that sticks out most to me. It is one of the hardest and most disappointing realizations I've had: that it seems most people don't really care about others. I'm not sure why (probably naivety), but I had always been under the impression that everyone cares about the general well-being of others--that people want others to be happy, healthy, and to have a fair share of opportunities in life. I'm not talking about wanting the best for your family and friends, but wanting it for ALL people.
One time, I was having this conversation with someone and I said something along the lines of, "All those cuts to education is going to really hurt your kid's school." And the person said, "Not really. I don't think it affects me or my family at all." And I said, "But you have a son in a public school. How can it not affect you? Some of the programs, like music and advanced placement classes, will likely be cut or dramatically reduced. Your son loves music and is really smart. Don't you want his school to have those programs available?" And the person shrugged and said, "Well, I'll just pay for him to take music lessons after school then. Or I'll transfer him to a wealthy school, because those parents will donate and fundraise to make up for all the cuts." I was shocked to hear this, so I said, "But what about all those other kids whose parents can't afford to pay for private music lessons? Or kids who can't attend a wealthy school far from home because they'll have to find their own transportation and their parents can't provide it?" The person just simply shrugged as if to suggest it didn't matter at all what happened to other kids.
There have also been conversations in which people have told me, "Why should public employees be better off than me? It's not fair. I have to suffer through this bad economy, so they should suffer as well." This idea that if one person suffers, then all others need to suffer too just doesn't make sense to me. I understand that public employees are easier to blame rather than the big corporations or the very wealthy who seem far away and untouchable, but it does no good to have all people in the middle class suffer. It only leaves the corporations and the wealthy to gain more out of our unfortunate situations.
When I have conversations like these (and there have been many), it makes me really sad. Maybe it bothers me so much, because as an educator, I'm used to thinking about everybody else's kids too, not just the three that are my own. I'm used to thinking about the adults in those kids' life also, because they directly impact my students. I think about whether those homes have proper clothing, food, healthcare, jobs, education, etc. I've always thought everyone else had these same concerns for the well-being of others. It seems, however, that most people only think about themselves and the people in their immediate circle.
I hope though that I'll be proven wrong on this sad realization and that the recall elections coming up will show that there are plenty of folks out there who care enough about all people to vote for the candidates who will more likely take care of the common people and not just the wealthy. We shall see what happens in this next stage of Wisconsin's political chaos. I hope for the best.