Crossroads of Humanity

Jul 8, 2013

Congratulations, Scott Walker... You Win!

On June 5, 2012, Scott Walker retained his seat as governor of Wisconsin, leading me to the conclusion that the majority of Wis. voters do not value public employees. And so a year ago today, we were in the midst of negotiating a rental agreement with friends because in the current market we cannot afford sell our home. We were also planning for a new job in another state where our values more closely align with those of public policy.

Clearly, Governor Walker has an agenda that does not include doing what's best for his constituents. Public employees are the foundation of a healthy, thriving society. Yet those are the exact people Governor Walker has been targeting. First, he illegally busted public unions. According to U.S. District Judge William Conley, “Walker’s anti-union legislation contains parts that are discriminatory and therefore, illegal.” All along, Walker has claimed that he's simply trying to balance the state budget. But is he really? After all, he rejected the Obamacare Medicaid Expansion that would have brought in a large sum of money in order to help Wisconsin citizens.

Let's take a moment to think about a strong and healthy society. In a healthy society, people's basic needs met are met with little difficulty. In addition, most people in a healthy society earn a little extra, so they can give back to their community, thereby keeping the whole strong. That is all made possible by ensuring a middle class filled with a mix of public and private employees who are typically not overworked or overstressed. In a strong society, public employees provide beneficial services such as police officers, firefighters, and public health officials, the type of people who keep communities safe. Furthermore, a Democracy relies on educated citizens which means putting a high priority on public schools. Finally, institutions such as public libraries and parks departments provide everyone with clean and beautiful places to go for recreation. What do all of these things have in common? They benefit everyone, rich or poor, old or young. And they should not be privatized.

When businesses become privatized, what usually happens is that only the healthy are cared for, only the strongest thrive, and only those who do not reduce the bottom line are valued. The flaw with the argument that it's better to privatize is that people aren't merchandise, people aren't things. People are, well, people. As a group, we are stronger with diversity, we are healthier overall because of our differences. If Governor Scott Walker and his supporters can learn to value everyone, they may be surprised to see that the bottom line will flourish.

Sadly, I don't believe that's going to happen. Here is some news you may or may not know coming from the state of Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker Signs Bill Requiring Ultrasounds for Women Seeking Abortions

Wisconsin Governor Signs Sick Leave Bill

Governor Walker Rejects Obamacare Medicaid Expansion in Wisconsin

Governor Signs Abstinence Sex Education Bill

Walker's Colossal Giveaway to Mining Co. in Wisconsin

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker Signs Three Anti-Abortion and Anti-Contraception Bills into Law

Scott Walker Proposes Expanding Voucher School Program

It's been over a year now since my family and I knew we would be moving away from our hometown, away from family and friends, away from a community we will always love. I'll be straightforward about this: the Wisconsin I knew is gone, and I greatly fear for the future of the state. Pulling taxpayer funding away from the public sector means that everyone will be supporting private interests. As much as I miss living in Wisconsin, at this time I can honestly say that I do not regret our decision to leave. And I know for a fact, that I am not alone.

S.L. Wallace is the author of the Reliance on Citizens trilogy and Retrospection.

Jul 4, 2013

Independence Day - What does it mean to you?

I haven't found any concrete evidence to support this tidbit of information, nor have I found concrete evidence to deny it. However, we can be certain that while many colonists favored Independence, some also remained loyal to King George and England. As Americans take the day to celebrate our independence, let's also try to separate fact from fiction. For intellect is truly what makes humans great!

So in honor of our Independence, today I am setting out on a scavenger hunt because I know that history is often recorded by the winners, not the losers. As a teacher and a parent, I also know without a doubt, that there can be as many sides to an issue as there are people who are concerned about that issue. So let's delve into the early years of United States history.

First, I revisited the song list and lyrics from the musical 1776. The song “But Mr. Adams” clearly demonstrates that no one wanted to write the Declaration of Independence. And why would they? Although those who wrote it felt strongly that the United States had outgrown its colonial status, they also knew writing such a document was an act of sedition. Furthermore, those who signed the Declaration of Independence knew they were committing an act of treason.

While I was watching the video clip, I reflected on a statistic I had been taught as an adult; more on that later. First though, my childhood history lessons taught children that the colonists wanted freedom from England. The teachers, textbooks and TV clips never told us that only some of the colonists wanted to be free from the motherland. In honor of childhood fantasies, let's take a moment to watch this Schoolhouse Rock video titled, “No More Kings.”

Wow! So much of what I was taught was biased and downright inaccurate. As an adult, I learned a much different statistic. I had taken my class to Nature's Classroom Institute for the week. Here they learned about environmentalism and nature every morning, had fun breakout sessions in a variety of topics in throughout the afternoons, and participated in large group simulations in the evenings. One of the simulations was about the U.S. Revolution. It wasn't a lot of fighting, but rather a trading sort of game in which some represented Loyalists, some represented Patriots, and many represented neither. The statistic they taught the children at the end of that simulation was that 1/3 of the colonists in the later half of the 18th century supported King George, another 1/3 wanted to be free from the crown, and the final 1/3 were undecided. Here is a newer statistic I found on my search. Only about 20% of colonists were Loyalists, a small but vocal minority were Patriots, and the majority of the colonists were undecided.

What is the absolute truth including accurate numbers regarding the reason we celebrate the 4th of July? We may never know, but we can be certain, without a doubt, that conflict always always ALWAYS has more than one side. What else can I be certain of? I would not be who I am today, if events had played out differently so long ago. Therefore, I want to take a moment to thank my ancestors for their contributions to our lives today. It's also important to note that I highly respect anyone who stands up for their beliefs and puts others first. Thank you if that applies to you, and happy 4th of July!

Addendum: One last thing I began to wonder while on my scavenger hunt was what about the first continental congress? Everyone hears about the second continental congress because it led to the Declaration of Independence. Well, the first was just as important, and in fact, led to the second. But I'll let you research that one on your own.

S.L. Wallace is the author of the Reliance on Citizens trilogy and Retrospection.

Jul 2, 2013

For the Love of the Game

The summer of 1869 was hot, in more ways than one. At 16 years of age, I had moved to Clearwater a little over a month ago, seeking employment as a farmhand. It was in the orchard where I was picking peaches when I first heard mention of a game by the name of base ball. Not even a week later, there I was in full uniform, ready to play.

I adjusted my tie and checked my cap. Johnny elbowed me. I grunted and turned to see what he wanted. He winked. “Something wrong?”

“Nah,” I said. “Why do you ask?”

He smirked and knocked off my black cap. “You keep fidgeting like that, and you'll set in on crooked. Wouldn't want the ladies to see that!”

Nervously, I scanned the crowd. Lance reached for my cap, dusted it off and handed it to me. “Go easy on the muffin,” he said to Johnny. “You keep at it, and the ump will fine you again.”

“Fines?” I gulped. “Nobody said anything about paying. I don't have much...”

“Don't worry about it,” Lance said. “We all stick to gentlemanly behavior, and there'll be no fines to pay.”

The umpire signaled for us to join him on the field. Before he left, Johnny tucked in his shirt, causing me to double check my own shirttails after replacing my cap.

Lance, my elder and a member of the team since it's inception patted my knee as he stood. “Don't worry, kid. Just listen to the man.” He nodded toward the umpire. The word in the peach orchard was that Lance had brought the game of base ball home from the war with him. Now, nearly everybody in town turned out to watch the matches.

We stood in two rows, 18 men facing each other with the umpire at the head.

“Good evening, gentlemen, and welcome. First, the rules. Fielders must hold their initial positions until the ball is struck. Hurlers must pitch with an underhand throw. Basemen may take one step off the sack. Any ball caught in the air or on the first bound puts the striker dead. A fair ball remains in play anywhere except in the trees or on top of the privy. A base runner is dead if he is forced at any base or tagged in a non force situation. Running more than three feet from the base path to avoid making an out is not allowed. There will be no bunting, no sliding, no leading off, no stealing bases, no betting, and no swearing. Remember, men, this is a gentlemen's game.”

We reached across the way and shook hands with the members of the opposing team and then took our places. As I jogged out to right field, I tugged my cap again.

The club nine we were playing tonight was the Cattle Runners. They'd come over from Little Ridge. Those who had family in Clearwater had picnicked with loved ones while the rest kept to themselves. Still fairly new to the area, I'd picnicked with a few other fellows from the orchard. Lard sandwiches and peaches all around with some iced tea to chase it down.

The match was about to begin. The first fellow up popped a sky ball, and Harvey, our third baseman caught it easily. He threw it to Lance who wound up and tossed it in to the next fellow. CRACK! That one sound, and my heart was taken. From that moment forward, base ball had me in its grasp. The ball flew at mighty speed past our short stop and into the outfield. It was a daisy cutter. Charlie, our mid fielder, caught it up and threw it to Johnny at second, but their runner was safe, safe at second with only one out. The next ball bounced to Flint at first.

“Out!” called the umpire.

Only one more to go. I readied myself by placing my hands on my knees. Lance pulled back and tossed in the ball. Another CRACK! filled the air, and when the dust had settled, there was a Cattle Runner at first base and... Their first striker rounded third and kept on running! Hurriedly, Lance tossed it to the behind, but it was too late. The striker slid in safe and sound. He smiled in good humor when the umpire fined him two bits, then he ran over to the scorer and rang the tally bell.

The next man up held still. He let a few balls sail by until finally, the umpire began calling strikes.

“Strike two!”

Even from the distance, I could see the striker's jaw clench. He barred he teeth at Lance, but uttered not a word.

Lance hurled the ball, the striker swung the bat, and CRACK! It was a high one. I lifted my eyes to the sky and felt my cap fall off. With no time to worry about that now, I turned and ran back toward the trees in the distance. In the nick of time, I turned and the ball landed in my bare hands with a thwack! O' that stung, but at the same time it drove the love of base ball into my soul, and the cheers of the throng embedded themselves into my everlasting memory.

* This fictional short story by S.L. Wallace follows the rules of base ball as adopted by the National Association of Base Ball Players in March 1860.

S.L. Wallace is the author of the Reliance on Citizens trilogy and Retrospection.