the library mall

Barack Obama was in Madison this evening to speak at a big rally on the UW campus. I didn't go. At first, I thought I might try and take the kids but then I realized just how crazy it would be to take two tired not-yet-school-aged kids downtown on the bus (don't even try to find parking when there is a Big Event, and the Prez certainly qualifies) for a rally that would last several hours in a place with security so tight you're not even allowed to bring an extra diaper and a bottle of water. Then I thought I might try and bike there myself when Stuart got home from work...but the more I listened to the news as I was stirring the risotto and washing the lettuce for tonight's dinner, the more I heard phrases like "campus rally" and "energizing young voters" and "Obama will talk about Pell Grants", the more I realized this rally is not for me. It's for college students who probably were barely eligible to vote in the 2008 presidential election, and I am clearly beyond that.

Plus, I wouldn't have gotten to the rally until a couple hours after it started, so I probably wouldn't have gotten in. This from the AP: About 12,500 people packed onto a mall in the heart of the campus awaiting arrival of the president. Thousands more were in a line that stretched more than a mile beyond the entrance sight. It seems there was plenty of enthusiasm there without me.

I've been feeling twinges of nostalgia all day, though. You see, the Library Mall on the UW campus is a place of political action. Shortly after we moved to Madison in 2000, I saw Jesse Jackson stump for Al Gore. I've seen other politicians there, too, like our senator Russ Feingold (who is in danger of losing to some Republican businessman this fall). I've participated in rallies myself and even marched down State Street to the Capitol a time or two chanting slogans and yelling myself hoarse for union rights. The Mall is also Madison's own Speaker's Corner, where occasionally small groups of people wearing sandwich boards with gruesome pictures of aborted fetuses thump their bibles (and are largely ignored), where booths are set up offering hot cocoa and pamphlets bearing information on various oppressed peoples, where enterprising street musicians try and earn some change, and skateboarders blatantly ignore the "NO SKATEBOARDING" signs posted on the concrete buildings that surround the area.

Mostly, though, the Library Mall is filled with the pedestrian traffic of your basic, run-of-the-mill, giant university: people walking to and from class, the library, or the Starbucks on State Street. I have walked across that patch of concrete probably thousands of times because, you see, the Library Mall is also right in between the Humanities complex where I was a student in the School of Music for several years, and Memorial Library, whose basement houses the music library, where I spent countless hours. I kind of miss it. I don't at all miss being a student, but I miss being a part of the action, at least a little bit.

I also miss being a rabble-rouser. Staying home with my family instead of joining the throngs downtown tonight wasn't really a big deal, but it's got me thinking that I should find a way of participating in political activism. Rallies are all fine and good in and of themselves, but there are other, quieter, ways to make a difference. I just need to figure out how.


Rosemary said…
You should check in with my mom next time she visits. She's been a quiet activist for as long as I can remember and is doing quite a bit during this election cycle.
Jessi said…
Yeah, I feel that too. I am an adamant and prolific letter writer, but since all I ever receive back are form letters with autosignatures, I'm losing some steam. It's too easy at this stage of life to remember that you're more often ignored than listened to.

Do you know about Moms Rising, though. I've been a member for a year or so and they are great at giving opportunities and updates to be an activist about issues that matter to moms (healthcare, education, worker's rights, afterschool care, etc.). I pretty much love them.

Also, while typing this, I finally "got" Adam Ant. Adamant. Hm.
Anonymous said…
Jessi, even though all you get back are form letters, keep writing. I am often told that letters do make a difference. The yeas and nays are added up. Some politicians won't ever change, but they need to know that not all their constituents approve of their actions.
Frau G.
Pam said…
This makes me nostalgic for my days in Madison!

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