Tag Archives: Wisconsin
It took time to understand that a liberal Midwestern city like Madison has its own scalding injustices and inequalities, all the more invisible for the city’s self-regard. And it took time to understand that these are all parts of one whole. The state made the university, and the university brought the world to the state. The city was open to migration but not to integration; it kept all the old farm-town rituals of minimization and self-effacement but put them in a new political and cultural key.
In America the past becomes history very quickly, at least for some of us. By the time I was growing up, Martin Luther King, Jr. was an official symbol of the nation, which he still is today. I learned about him in school in a town that had deliberately excluded African-American homeowners into my lifetime. What was left out of the picture I was given was the profound hostility many people, north and south and everywhere else, felt toward him at the time of his death. What I had to learn later, on my own, is that he spent the last years of his life warning about the danger posed to American cities, and to the American soul, by generations of oppression and deprivation; that he spent those years trying hard to prevent chaos and violence; that he was not heeded by politicians or public opinion; and that the chaos and violence came, most explosively after his own murder. No one who was living in Chicago in 1968 can forget that.
The loss of this mode of politicking is the less-seen shadow side of the dysfunction and looming institutional crisis created by extreme gerrymandering. Once you know with a mathematical certainly who you don’t need, and where you don’t ever have to go, you are just wasting your time trying to hear out and nod along with some random collection of constituents. You have to tend to your party’s nominating voters and your funders, and they don’t care whether you’re able to empathize with whatever marginal voter you’re chasing at the mosque or the deli or the tavern.
(I wrote this in September, 2010) The siding industry should be alerted to the existence of Hudson, Wisconsin. I had occasion to pass through my old hometown last weekend, and I was struck by how little my neighborhood had changed, architecturally, since we moved away in 1990. It is a river town, your last stop […]
(I wrote this for The National in Abu Dhabi in February, 2009. It is no longer extant on their site, so I am posting it here) Just over a hundred years ago my father’s family settled in the town of Luck in northern Wisconsin. Winter descends there in October or November and lingers until April […]