I write a column for the Wilmette-Kenilworth Patch. It's a weekly foray into communal wisdom. I hope you enjoy them. Egypt and Wisconsin. These two communities would seem to be strange bedfellows on the surface of things; they are worlds apart. But then the events of the last few weeks start to tell a different story.
During the last several weeks the news media has been covering the various and mostly peaceful protests in the Middle East. The region, some speculate, is experiencing a shift in its political center. Will it become more moderate? Perhaps. There is much that remains to be seen and only time will tell if these changes that appear to be taking place in countries like Egypt will be positive for the people who stood in the streets of Cairo and proclaimed their desire for fairness and liberty.
Now cast your gaze northward to Wisconsin. It may seem absurd to compare the two situations. I imagine that the economic and political plight of most Wisconsinites is on the whole more to our liking than that of someone in Yemen. And yet, there they were in the streets of Madison proclaiming their desire for fairness and liberty.
In Madison, firefighters, teachers, sanitation workers and nurses are all out standing in solidarity with one another attempting to protect the rights of unions to negotiate for fair pay and benefits on behalf of their membership. Unions have been an American political reality for more than a century.
We defend our shared liberty.
We believe in the power of movements in this country.
We believe in the power of the whole community gathered.
Whether itâ€™s the Tea Party or the unions gathered in the streets of Madison, Wisconsin, in the United States we honor our right to gather as communities and declare, proclaim and protest when we feel our civic leaders are not listening to us or not working to maintain the common good.
As a form of community, a movement is surprising. It flies in the face of some of our more popular sentiment. Margaret Mead famously stated, â€œA small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.â€ Itâ€™s a powerful notion and calls to mind meeting rooms and private conversations between powerful people. And yet here we sit in a time of history when large groups of people are attempting to change their world.
Cairo or Madison, movements are a form of community that might make us nervous, but have the power to change the worldâ€¦and for the better. They give voice to the deepest longings of a large group of people and can â€œspeak truth to powerâ€ like no small group of thoughtful people ever could.
Neighbors come together.
Strangers join hands in song.
All of us gather and proclaim our shared truthâ€¦that the world has already changed. Weâ€™ve changed it.
This is the power and wisdom of community.