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Freedom Inc And My Dad

June 24, 2019

While reading Sunday’s Wisconsin State Journal story about Freedom Inc. my mind went back to a scene in my small rural Wisconsin home.  My dad was a town board supervisor and for many years monthly meetings rotated at the homes of the elected community members.  When our home was the site mom made some baked treat for the evening, while I recall looking from my bedroom at the men seated around the kitchen table talking and doing what needed to be completed.  It was my first example of what governing looked like.  I obviously did not think about it in those terms at the time, but in hindsight it was a teaching moment.

So when I read the following lead paragraphs for the newspaper story about Freedom Inc. I must say, even though the facts of this group are well known, it still was disturbing to my sensibilities.

The May 20 appearance at a Madison School Board meeting by members of Freedom Inc. was typical.

“Take the damn cops out of schools,” said the group’s community power building coordinator, Mahnker Dahnweih, referring to the four police officers, known as school resource officers, stationed at Madison’s four main high schools.

“Anyone who calls, if he uses the police on children when there’s that, like, unbalanced power dynamic, hold they asses accountable,” she said.

The tough talk, delivered with Dahnweih’s assurance that “radical queer black feminism has the answer,” garnered cheers from supporters in the audience. When School Board President Gloria Reyes told Dahnweih her three minutes for speaking were up, Dahnweih wasn’t having it. “I don’t give a damn about your timer,” she said.

I have posted many responses over the years on this blog to those who shout and rant.  I have wondered what comprises the type of person which links themselves with  Freedom Inc.  I have questioned what must have gone so dreadfully wrong to allow people a sense that only the most rude, crass, and bombastic public antics can fill the void of their lives?  I have often tried to wrap my mind around how a person comes to view the entire political and governing process in such a way that their only response is one of explosive stupidity.

And then in one well-written newspaper article from Chris Rickert the answer came to me.  I had a dad who demonstrated in real ways what government work entailed and how process mattered; from winning an election to passing local budgets for town business.   The work of a local supervisor is not sexy.   No grand headlines in the local paper but the phone often rings with questions and requests.

Because education in civics and governing is not stressed enough, nor taught in the fashion it was in my formative years, means there are a lot of people with anger about issues but without a foundation of how to move forward constructively to seek remedies.  Now that in no way gives those same people license to act in such low-brow and demeaning ways when at local meetings, as we see all too often in Madison and Dane County.  That lack of civility is just due to poor parenting.  Period.

The lack of having someone along the way in their life to show why voting matters, why compromise in public meetings is a way for all to move forward, and why structured proceedings benefits all participants is most telling.

My husband could always tell in his college classrooms which students had parents who read to them and valued books.  There were tell-tale signs in how they studied and dealt with printed material.  The same can be said for those who present themselves at public meetings in our city.  It is easy to see who was taught about history, government and civics.  And those who were not.

Last weekend on Father’s Day I was a bit glum as my dad passed away years back.  One week later I was reminded, while reading the Rickert story, about why dad is always with me.  I sincerely wish each young person had that same type of person to know and learn from.

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