Civil Liberty and Civil Disobedience

I’m kind of bottled up at the moment. The stories are flowing fine. I work my twelve hours a week, and I’m thrilled with what I’m doing. I am feeling like a writer and moving forward. My job is also a good job. Personal life going well for now.

It’s at this point I get political, so I’m putting this under a cut for those of you who don’t want to see this in a journal that’s about writing. But I just can’t not write about it at the moment. It’s on my mind.

It always bothers me that there is a great deal of injustice in the world. It really bothers me when it lands closer to home. I’ve already talked about Wisconsin, and regrettably Ohio, Oklahoma and Indiana have similar movements within their governments. I don’t think anyone’s thinking about what removing collective bargaining will do to speed the erosion of the middle class, and in turn intensify feelings of tension between the haves and have-nots. I didn’t imagine I’d see this kind of tactic in this day and age. I wonder what other sorts of activities legislatures could plan to vote to curtail.

On other parts of the planet, something much more serious than this is going on. The Jasmine Revolution is moving through the Middle East and nibbling at the edges of China. And some of those governments aren’t going to go down easy. There will be loss of human life. There will be distress and discord and suffering. Many of my students from that part of the world are watching, particularly my Sudanese students.

Both our local events and international events seem to focus around civil liberty. People want to gain it or keep it, and other people want to curtail it. The right of people to speak out on their own behalf is being silenced by government. In each situation, there’s someone who tells people that they are wrong to want to take care of themselves. These people are often the people who have money and power. If you find that suspicious, good for you.

My hope is that we can avoid violence, always. We must always struggle to improve the human condition. That’s why I’m in education. It’s one of the keys to that struggle. Bryon and I joke, when we leave for work each morning, that we are off to fight the forces of darkness. Turns out that we are. Turns out that greed is the biggest monster we have to fight. Turns out, too, that we have to fight it at home and in our own state.

Are people naturally wired to want to exploit other people for their own gain, and do horrible things to do it? Sometimes it feels like it. The other day in the coffee shop, a staff member at Kirkwood told me she wondered if the unionized employees of Wisconsin deserved to have their collective bargaining rights stripped away, given that other employees in the private sector didn’t have those rights. And I asked her if she didn’t ask her question backwards. Maybe it shouldn’t be why do you have this when other people don’t. Maybe the question should be why doesn’t everyone have this?

Why shouldn’t everyone have health insurance and old age benefits? Why shouldn’t everyone be able to say what they think? Why shouldn’t everyone in the Middle East have the right to a job and a vote? Why shouldn’t our human struggle be making sure that the basic rights for all human beings are preserved at every level? Why shouldn’t that be what nations try to pay for? Because damn, if we wanted to, we could.

I applaud those who are putting their lives on the line for their principles in the Middle East. This is the most concrete way in which you can stand up for human rights. And I applaud Wisconsin senators on the run, and protesters on the stairs of the capitol in Madison. The human condition is worth standing up for.


Author: Catherine Schaff-Stump

Catherine Schaff-Stump writes fiction for children and young adults. Her most recent book, The Vessel of Ra, is the first book in the Klaereon Scroll series. She is currently working on its sequel, as well as penning the middle grade adventures of Abigail Rath, monster hunter.

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