Monday, June 4, 2012

The People's House

'Penokee - Explore the Iron Hills' premiered Saturday in the rotunda of the State Capitol Building in Madison WI. It was an extraordinary place to hold an exhibition and things went well.

Though only part of the show was mounted in the rotunda, what there was of it left me honored to have played a part. Both the artistic and the educational aspects of the thing are particularly strong. Can't hardly wait to view the entire show when it takes up residence at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center on June 23rd.


Every Saturday in season the good citizens of Madison Wi throw themselves a Circus on Capitol Square. They call it a Farmer's Market.

In fairness, there are farmers and lot's of 'em, selling all manner of things from produce to meat. There're also spices and syrups, fresh baked goods & potted plants too. These tents ring the walk immediately around the Capitol Building. Foot traffic is heavy, business brisk.

Strung around that and fanning out in different directions is Madison celebrating itself, from folk hawking doo dads & gee gaws, to musicians, food vendors & community organizations spreading the word. And, gloriously reminiscent of Chicago's once celebrated but now mostly moribund Bughouse Square, abundant free speech practiced freely, with purpose.

All told, it's quite the scene:

From the steps of the Capitol Building

Inside the Capitol Building is the final ring of this weekly public Circus and what transpires there is profound. Citizens treat their building as if it belongs to them not merely in some abstract political sense but in actual fact. With the business of the State being light on Saturdays folk clamber all over the place, always treating their public house with respect and often with wide-eyed children in tow. It's a great civics lesson being repeatedly taught in a living place instead of in a museum filled with artifacts.

Naturally, most of the activity centers around the floor of the rotunda beneath the towering Capitol dome, which by volume is the largest of its kind in these United States and among the largest in the world.

From our vantage on the 2nd floor, we watched the people's parade pass by. Mostly, it was good fun but not infrequently folk came to this spot with high purpose and in reverence, as when a group of a dozen or more bikers held a lengthy prayer circle beneath the shining light that flows down from the dome.

Then something sublime occurred. A man walked quietly into his house, stood near its center and humbly raised his voice in song:

Tomorrow, the good citizens of Wisconsin have the responsibility to participate in an historic election. Only twice before in our Nation's history has there been a recall election of a sitting Governor. Tuesday will be the third.

When Governor Walker was 1st elected, it was with 52.29% of the vote cast by only 49.7 percent of voters. In other words, roughly a quarter of Wisconsin's eligible citizens decided what course the State should take. That's not near good enough under any circumstance, especially during hard times. Many who stayed home became dissatisfied with the result and rather quickly, too. That's only expected, when folk choose to let others do the heavy lifting for them.

So get out and vote, Wisconsin. Show the cynics, the naysayers, the political panderers & cronies of every stripe, the fear mongers, demagogues & the exploiters for gain that in America, power truly rests in the hands of The People.

Your forbears built for you a splendid, joyously inclusive People's House.

Tomorrow's your opportunity to earn it anew.

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