An Open Letter to Those Who Hate Teachers

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When I graduated from college, I, like many graduates, had no clue what I wanted to do with my life.  I was medically cleared to go to West Africa to join the Peace Corps.  I’d applied to seminary and to graduate school.  Grad school took me first, I took it as a sign, and started on a path to get my Ph.D. and become a college professor.  At no time on this path did anyone warn me that at some point in my life, I would be hated, despised, loathed, and treated with contempt for the occupation I chose.  I don’t know that it would have made any difference, but a heads up would have been nice.

When I grew up, I loved my teachers.  I loved my professors.  I’ve been incredibly lucky to have been in classrooms with some of the most gifted teachers who inspired me, taught me what it means to teach, and were not only amazing teachers, but scholars and activists as well.  I truly learned from the best.  When I finally landed a job as a college professor, I was excited to pay it forward–to give my students all that I had learned during those years.  But once I actually began teaching, I was stunned and deeply confused at the very vocal resentment towards those who had chosen to work in the field of education.  When Act 10 was passed, to say it divided Wisconsin would be an understatement.  We were called lazy, overpaid, greedy, and undeserving of the benefits we had bargained for in lieu of lower wages.  At the time, I thought this was hurtful and it made me incredibly angry.  Then, Governor Walker got reelected and we saw an increase in the vitriolic rhetoric towards educators when they began to speak out against his proposed budget.  Admittedly, I have put myself in the spotlight through Facebook posts, tweets, and now through my blog posts, so I expected to get a few horrible comments thrown my way.  I was told I should be on a government watch list because I teach in the field of Women’s and Gender Studies.  I was called a communist.  I was told to “quit whining” and get a real job.  Some wrote:

“if you want to know why I seem angry, it’s because this “crisis” was a manufactured one ” much like the rape crisis you manufactured on campus. Watch, remove the gender studies courses and rape claims go way down;”

“so is someone going to start mocking and insulting her and telling HER to ‘quit your complaining and whining! omg! suck it up!” and all that?”

“Teach students something that will allow them to get a job and pay their mortgages, and then we can worry about your job and mortgage.”

All hurtful and frustrating but I had no idea how bad it would get.

Here are a list of things I have been personally called since I started blogging:
“Liberal union cunt”
“Dyke profesor”
“Lesbo cock sucker”
“Flaming liberal whore”

You get the idea. There are more. You won’t see these on my blog, because I have the ability to delete them, but they’re there.  Anonymous strangers who feel better about themselves by demeaning me.  Misogyny and ignorance at its finest.  And this is mild compared to some of the things other writers or those in the public eye have gone through–I don’t in any way want to diminish the very real death threats that have sent some into hiding for daring to speak out against that which they see as unjust. As John Oliver points out in a segment on online harassment this regularly happens to “any woman who makes the mistake of having a thought in her mind, and then vocalizing it online.”

Again, these were online comments.  And I’m clearly not the only one who’s experienced this. Just this week, a friend posted this:

Joel

Once again, none of these responses to his tweet were accurate (professors don’t teach children, tenure is not a job for life,) but that didn’t stop the immediate backlash against one tweet regarding the elimination of tenure from state statutes in Wisconsin and the very real ramifications of that.

Fast forward to two days ago.  I was at a gas station when a man approached me.
Man: “Looks like gas prices have gone up!”
Me: “Um, yep? I guess so?”
Man: (looks at my UW-faculty parking sticker) “If I had your kind of money, I wouldn’t be complaining about gas prices, bitch.”

I was dumbfounded.  A good friend noted, “Wow, eliciting sympathy purely in order to twist it around into mistaken and misplaced class rage. That is truly sociopathic.”  Agreed.  This man, this complete stranger, felt it necessary to make sure I knew how much he hated me.  I’ve never experienced anything like it, but I know it has happened to others. Example? One friend got punched in the face at a bar by a 70 year old man for simply trying to correct misinformation regarding faculty salaries.  Let me repeat that.  Punched in the face by a 70 year old man.

I posted my experience on Facebook, and perhaps most disturbing was the number of people who had reached out and told me they’d experienced similar interactions.  I don’t know when it became ok to physically confront someone and attack them just “because.”  Another friend pointed out, “The thing is – misconception aside – even if you were a billionaire it shouldn’t be commented on by a hateful stranger who would call you or anyone a bitch.”  Exactly.  And the fact that this is evidently happening more often and to more educators should call us all to take pause and ask ourselves, how did Wisconsin get this divided?  What happened in this man’s life, and what had he been told about educators that he felt entitled to speak his mind and let me know exactly how much contempt he had for me and everyone who does what I do?  It takes a lot of hatred and misplaced anger to behave in such a way.  And to know that this is not an isolated incident frankly both saddens and enrages me.

As I wrote in my Facebook post, I truly want to invent a sign that says “everything you know about college professors is wrong” and wear it daily.  As I pointed out in the letter I wrote to the Joint Finance Committee before they passed the budget, “I will officially make less now as a tenured professor than I did when I started in 2009. In most jobs, your pay is supposed to increase over time—not the other way around. And contrary to popular belief, I don’t make a six figure salary nor will I ever if I spend the rest of my lifetime working in the Colleges. Up until a few years ago, I was still eligible for the earned income tax credit.  Starting salaries of a professor with a Ph.D. remain at $43,000 and have stagnated. The highest paid professor with a Ph.D. at UW-Marshfield/Wood County, after 23 years of experience and service to our campus, makes $65,521.00. Most of my colleagues have second jobs, some at other institutions and others in any part time job available. Several who work full time on my campus and at other institutions are eligible for food stamps and reduced priced lunch programs for their children. They live paycheck to paycheck, working as line cooks and waitresses. They continue to pay off student loans and will do so for the next 25+ years at our rate of pay. Just the other day, a tenured faculty member asked if I’d be a reference on her application to Family Video. I bartended for several years during the summer to help pay off my student loans and make sure I didn’t find myself further in debt. As awkward as it was to have my students see me behind a bar, sadly, I couldn’t afford to leave that job because I made more serving alcohol than teaching in the UW System . . . . We are being asked, for yet another year, to do more with less. There is nothing left. State divestment in public education cannot continue. I get it. Defunding public education has become politically easy. As the Nation recently reported, ‘If states won’t raise taxes or cut back on mass incarceration, gutting higher education becomes the path of least resistance.’ But it’s a dangerous path we’ve been walking on for far too long.'”

So how did we get here? And what can we expect in the future? As Katharine J. Cramer writes in her piece regarding the politics of resentment, “Consistently conservative groups saw things differently, obviously. They wanted lower taxes and fewer government programs . . . and asserted that government programs —except for defense spending—should be as small as possible. They believed in bootstraps and lamented peoples’ apparent inability to use them. Besides spending on defense, they were also ok with funding for programs like the WPA [Works Progress Administration] and the CCC [Civilian Conservation Corps] that rewarded hard work. Notice how their support for government spending hinged on notions of deservingness. We have seen this theme before. In their eyes, government programs are only legitimate if they support deserving Americans. And this group, like others in my sample treated deservingness as a matter of whether or not the policy recipients are hard-working Americans like themselves (Soss and Schram 2007; Skocpol and Williamson 2012, ch. 4). They approved of government programs when they perceived the programs gave out benefits that were payments to people who had earned them, not handouts to the undeserving (Winter 2008). Hard work was a key consideration, not just for the consistently conservative groups, but arguably for the vast majority of the groups, including the groups who were ambivalent about small government. This is important. It suggests that support for limited government is not driven mainly by a principled belief in small government, but instead by attitudes about a particular program’s recipients (Nelson and Kinder 1996;Schneider and Ingram 1993) . . . Support for small government policies or candidates seemed motivated by something other than abstract adherence to the idea that smaller government is better, and was not a simple result of disliking government or feeling ignored by it. This is where the politics of resentment comes in. In the conversations, you can see how resentment toward target groups often served as the glue between anti-government and small government attitudes . . . . The blow-up over Governor Walker’s budget measures shortly after he took office in early 2011 illustrates these sentiments . . . Each of these groups was supportive of Walker’s proposal to require public workers to pay more into their health and pension benefits. As we saw in the previous chapter, they perceived that these benefits came directly from their own pockets and that as rural residents they worked much harder than the desk workers in state government. In addition, they perceived that the public workers in their own communities (especially school teachers) made salaries that were much higher than their own.”

The problem with this is that public sector employees like UW professors and public school teachers aren’t the enemy, nor have they ever been, and by placing the blame on them for everything from the recession to unemployment rates, we don’t focus on what actually blew up the economy. As Robert Reich argues, “Divide and Conquer tactics pit average working Americans against each other, distract attention from the most unprecedented concentrated wealth at the top, and conceal regressive plans to further enlarge and entrench that power.”  Similarly, Paul Krugman noted, “There is a better answer, and a teachable moment here, which gets at the real nature of inequality in America. It’s not about overpaid teachers. Let’s start by looking at the real winners in soaring inequality — the people who not only make incredible amounts of money, but get to pay very low taxes.  According to Forbes, in 2012 the top 40 hedge fund managers and traders took home a combined $16.7 billion. Now look at those supposedly overpaid government employees. According to the BLS, the median high school teacher earns $55,050 per year. So, those 40 hedge fund guys made as much as 300,000, that’s three hundred thousand, school teachers — almost a third of all high school teachers in America. OK, teachers get benefits, so their total compensation cost is higher than their wage, so maybe it’s only 200,000. But you should keep numbers like these in mind whenever anyone tries to shift attention from the one percent (and the .001 percent) to Americans who aren’t even upper-middle class.”

So why are we still blaming the wrong people for societal’s ills?  When will it stop? And how do we convince someone who only knows and truly believes that educators are the reason their lives aren’t where they should be–that educators and other public sector workers should be punished for “undeserved” benefits, and that their lives are truly better off because of the dismantling of public education–that all of these beliefs are based in false ideologies?

I have no answers.  But to those who hate me, who see no value in what I do, and who think I don’t deserve the privileges conferred by years of hard work and determination, I ask–if my job is so wonderful, so star spangled awesome, why don’t you do what I do?  If being a teacher is so easy, why not become one? If our benefits are so egregiously disproportionate to yours, what is stopping you from going to graduate school and obtaining your very own Ph.D.?  Because instead of dismissing my job, asking for (more) “shared sacrifice,” and belittling my career choice, maybe your time would be better spent becoming an educator, spending some time with people who live and work in my profession, and a little less time in the comments section of your local newspapers, on Facebook, on Twitter, or in peoples’ faces saying cruel and ugly things based on falsehoods, deeply rooted misplaced resentment, and ignorance.

Update:  this piece has been posted in the following places.  Thank you all who have shared:

American Association of University Professors’ (AAUP) Academe blog

Blogging Blue

Monologues of Dissent

Say no to Vouchers Facebook Page

An Open Letter to Those Who Still Stand With Walker

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Dear Walker Supporters,

I doubt we have much in common.  In fact, I’d bet money on it.  And I wish this were a dia-blog so that this could be a conversation, but given the medium, this will have to serve as a letter to you, to those who still, after every policy this governor has proposed, support him, his policies, and perhaps even see him as a frontrunner for the next Commander-in-Chief.  Because I know you exist.  I know you love this man.  You see him making “tough decisions” and “sticking it to” those you feel caused you financial pain or somehow wronged you in this life.  I want you to know I respect your opinion to support him, defend your right to vote for him or whomever you feel best represents the best interests of you and your own, but I also need to know, truly and honestly, why.  Why you still support him.  Because for the life of me, I can’t think of one justifiable reason anyone who isn’t directly benefiting from him financially (i.e. giant corporations), feels as though this governor and his policies are making their lives better.

As I stated in a previous blog, “To my friends who voted for Governor Walker, all three times, I often asked and still do, has your quality of life improved?  Does me having to pay more for my healthcare make yours any better?  Does weakening my job security strengthen yours?  Did my pay cut help to get you a raise?  Usually I get blank stares, but the point is that the reasons for voting for Governor Walker in the first place run much deeper.  One of the most effective messages Governor Walker used against public sector employees was to tap into the deep resentment that many people feel/felt toward those they perceived to be an elitist class apart.  As he stated, it was a fight between the ‘have-nots’ vs. the ‘haves.’ To many who voted for Walker, it wasn’t about making things better for your fellow Wisconsinites, for Wisconsin’s economy, or improving misguided policies.  Walker supporters wanted to even the playing field through shared misery.  Instead of working together to get better healthcare, job security, and pay in the private sector, instead, voters wanted some kind of justice where everyone suffered equally.  Public workers were and still remain an easy scapegoat with our ‘Cadillac benefits’ and ‘job security for life.’  Even though tenure is not job security for life and those ‘Cadillac’ benefits were bargained for in exchange for lower wages, most have no idea of those realities unless they know someone or personally work in higher education or in the public sector.”

I can understand why you voted for him in 2010.  I can even understand why you supported him in 2014–many of my conservative friends truly had no idea, nor had Walker run on the policies he proposed in his initial budget that have upended workers’ rights in Wisconsin, dismantled public education, and made history by putting Wisconsin on the map for all the wrong reasons.  But now?  I’d like to take a minute to assess the damage this governor has done to this state in an attempt to show you exactly how he has directly and indirectly negatively impacted you, your friends, your families, and your fellow citizens.

Many have called July of 2015 a historic month for progressives.  The United States Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, the Affordable Care Act survived its second Supreme Court test in three years, and the U.S. unemployment rate fell to 5.3%, its lowest level since April 2008.  But here in Wisconsin, it doesn’t seem as if we’re making the same progress.  It is, in fact, and has felt as though we’ve been living in an alternative universe for years now.  A recent study by the Pew Charitable Trusts found that Wisconsin’s middle class — households earning between about $34,500 and $103,000 — has shrunk at a faster rate than any other state in the country.  As the Journal Sentinel reported in June, “Wisconsin was 35th out of 50 states in private-sector job growth over the four years of Walker’s first term, according to recently released government data.  The numbers came as no surprise. The state was 35th in 2011, 36th in 2012, 38th in 2013 and 38th in 2014, based on the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages. Wisconsin has persistently lagged behind the nation and most nearby states during Walker’s time in office, and a sizable chunk of the state’s voters are aware of that trend, polls show. Walker’s unmet 2010 campaign promise of 250,000 new jobs and the partisan war over his governorship has turned Wisconsin’s employment picture into an ongoing political saga fueled by chronically tepid jobs reports.”  As Christopher Flavelle notes there has been low wage growth, job growth, and “state tax revenue increased just 4 percent between the first quarter of 2011 and the third quarter of last year, compared with a 20 percent increase for the median state. So the news this month that Wisconsin was skipping a scheduled $108 million debt payment, owing to an unexpected budget shortfall, only underlined a trend that’s been years in the making. Of the 40 states with general-obligation bonds, 25 have credit ratings from Moody’s that are better than Wisconsin’s.” In addition, he states that “measured by relative economic outcomes, Walker’s tenure falls somewhere between lackluster and a failure.”

Despite campaign promises to move Wisconsin forward and create jobs, Governor Walker has failed in every way imaginable.  But perhaps the most egregious abuses of power can be found in his budget (fiscal and non-fiscal policy proposals), that have put Wisconsin on the map as perhaps the most dysfunctional state in the union.  Take the budget recently passed by the Joint Finance Committee.  A comprehensive list of policy proposals is here, explained by Nick Fleisher here, and this budget has notably and arguably been labeled by those on both sides of the aisle as the “worst budget Wisconsin has ever seen.”  As Fleisher aptly notes, “It hardly needs repeating at this point, but all of these extremely damaging changes to the state of Wisconsin—the gutting of open records laws, the planned dismantling of the state’s largest school district, the elimination of tenure in the UW System, and much more besides—were developed totally in secret by the twelve legislators who comprise the JFC majority, and passed on party-line votes within hours of being released to the public (or to committee Democrats, for that matter). The open records changes have drawn the harshest and broadest rebuke, but they are emblematic of a broader pattern of brazen disregard for the public that this committee has exhibited throughout the budget process. Chris Abele’s aligning himself with this committee in its attack on Milwaukee Public Schools is unforgivable. UW administrators’ steadfast refusal to question this committee’s false narrative of budgetary strain and scarcity has predictably led to a dire outcome for everyone but those administrators themselves. Meanwhile, legislative leaders invoke cash balances amassed by UW administrators as an excuse for slashing funding, while in the next breath calling for those very same administrators to be invested with newly broadened powers. It is difficult to imagine a moral failure of leadership more absolute than the one we are now witnessing at almost every level in Wisconsin.”

What has garnered the most attention was the issue of open records.  As The Green Bay Gazette, pointed out, strange bedfellows lined up against the open records gutting in the biennial budget including the Center for Media and Democracy, WI Attorney General Brad Shimel (R), State Sen. Robert Cowles, (R-Allouez), The Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, the Madison chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, One Wisconsin Now, the conservative think-tank, the MacIver Institute for Public Policy and the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty.  Not shockingly, none of the lawmakers that slipped the measure in were willing to take credit for it.

Within a span of a few days and facing so much criticism, on July 4th, Governor Walker and legislative leaders announced they would drop the provision from the budget.  However, as State Senator Jon Erpenbach noted, “just the fact that they even tried to do this in the first place should bother everybody in this state.”

So, to you, dear Walker supporters, what will it take?  If a horrible economy, corrupt policies, and a sheer contempt for the state you live in isn’t enough, what will it take for you to stop supporting this man?  Because all of this comes down to voting.  And I fear, to many Walker supporters and many voters in general, facts don’t matter.  We like to create our own facts.  We like to watch news that merely reflects our existing opinions.  In the New York Times this week, David Leonhardt pointed out that “not only are people more likely to believe information that fits their pre-existing beliefs, but they’re also more likely to go looking for such information.”  And, in addition to seeking out information that conforms to our existing narratives, we accept language given to us by others rather than creating our own frames.  As Paul Fanlund points out, in many cases, progressives use the language of the GOP to frame our arguments. He states, “But here’s the thing: By focusing with such zeal on Walker, might we be bolstering his brand by allowing issue debates to occur on the GOP’s rhetorical turf?”  Yes.  Instead of reframing, or using new ways to talk about things like liberty, freedom, and other moral values, we accept and reinforce existing frames.

Citing George Lakoff, he claims, “Lakoff maintains that voters do not choose leaders based on the sum of a candidate’s positions but on this larger, moral frame. Issues must be tied together in this big frame, and conservatives have dominated the moral debate by consistently asking which side best stands for liberty. Progressives should effectively counter ‘liberty’ with ‘freedom,’ Lakoff argues, but have failed to do so. Here, in staccato phrases, is what he’s getting at:

If you get cancer or break a leg and do not have health insurance, you are not free.

If you can’t get a decent education, you are not free.

If you are a woman and do not control your body, you are not free.

If you cannot marry someone you love, you are not free.

If your work largely benefits only the wealthiest of the wealthy and not you, you are not free.

If you are treated with suspicion or disdain because of your race, you are not free.

If a few billionaires determine election outcomes, you are not free.

If you cannot easily vote, you are not free.

If you are not protected from harmful products and fraudulent business practices, you are not free.

If companies are allowed to foul the air you breathe and the water you drink, you are not free.

Get the picture? Government not as the evil enabler of a nanny state, but as an indispensable agent for freedom.”

This is not new.  Think of the ways in which we look at taxes.  The word “taxes,” has become synonymous with something Americans need to be “relieved from” since the phrase “tax relief” was first invented–yes invented–by the same people who decided it would be wise to start using the phrase “climate change” instead of “global warming” because it sounded more benign; by the same people who figured out more Americans would oppose the “estate tax” if it were relabeled the “death tax” because that sounded far more insidious. Language is powerful–so powerful that we no longer see the constructedness of these labels–they’re just a given. We see taxation as an affliction or burden and since there is no established frame or language that discusses taxes as an investment or a public good, we default to the idea that tax cuts *are* good–no matter how paltry or insignificant.

So when Governor Walker claimed he would hold true to his promised property tax cut that would amount to $10 over the next two years for the owner of a median-valued home, a savings of $5 a year for Wisconsin homeowners who meet this criteria, he made the mistake of including the actual dollar amount. When we hear we’re getting a tax break or a tax cut, the average citizen assumes they’re going to be saving hundreds or thousands of dollars per year. In this instance, many pounced on the idea that the dollar amount was so low, and that the cuts proposed were so deep, they’d gladly give back those five dollars if it meant saving jobs, keeping the UW System in tact, and if it meant not having to make cuts to programs around the state.

Lakoff in his book, “Don’t Think Of An Elephant: Know Your Values And Frame The Debate,” expands on the power of framing here:

“What is taxation? Taxation is what you pay to live in a civilized country-what you pay to have democracy and opportunity, and what you pay to use the infrastructure paid for by previous taxpayers: the highways system, the Internet . . . Taxation is paying your dues, paying your membership fee in America. If you join a country club or a community center, you pay fees. Why? You did not build the swimming pool. You have to maintain it.You did not build the basketball court.Someone has to clean it. You may not use the squash court, but you still have to pay your dues. Otherwise it won’t be maintained and will fall apart” (24-25).

A year ago, Wisconsin lawmakers approved a more than $800 million tax-cut package after budget forecasters projected a nearly billion-dollar windfall in unanticipated tax revenue. Now, the state will collect less than half of the projected $912 million that was the basis for the tax-cut package last year. The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau projects the state will end the year with a $233 million deficit after starting the year with a $517 million surplus.

It is the idea that tax cuts will produce revenue, coupled with the idea the we need “relief” from taxes that allowed this to happen. We need to reframe the debate–to look at taxes as an investment, and tell your legislators and Governor Walker that they can keep your $5. That they can keep your $5 and use it to restore funds for counseling services on college campuses. That they can keep your $5 and use it to bring back study abroad programs, jobs, and cuts to public media. That they can keep your five dollars so Wisconsin can rebuild our economy, our infrastructure, and our once enviable educational institutions. 

Walker supporters, if you are not swayed by facts, by frames, by narratives, and by language, then let me attempt to appeal to your most base patriotic notions of what is good, fair, just, and democratic.  In an excerpt from a blog written specifically in regards to the Declaration of Independence and Walker’s policies in Wisconsin, the author writes, “‘Consent of the governed’ is a key phrase, because it implies that in the mind of the Founders legislators would have told the people how they intend to govern, and that people should have approved of the policies and actions that are taking place, likely through elections. Does that sound like this crew, who have governed by surprise and instituted numerous policies in this budget that they never ran on last November . . . .Think about the state’s secretive gerrymandering and numerous examples of the overriding of local initiatives and powers. These moves have skewed the makeup of the state’s legislature and laws to something that does not reflect the views of the state and local areas.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

The most recent example is the gutting of the state’s long-established open records laws last night, but it’s far from the only time Walker and his minions in the Legislature have ‘dropped the bomb’ on numerous initiatives without warning. These last four years have featured plenty of ‘special’ and ‘extraordinary’ sessions to limit debate on non-pressing issues, and this budget session has seen numerous omnibus measures be introduced into the Joint Finance with no formal hearing, no public notice, and little connection to the budget items scheduled to be discussed.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people….

This ‘manly firmness’ not only includes repressive laws against unions and women’s health rights, but it also goes back to the centralizing of power and overriding of local government, which Walker and WisGOP have done time and time again.”

In all reality, those of you who support Governor Walker and his policies will never read this.  But to those who do, I truly ask you to take a look at your life.  At your neighbors’ lives.  And ask yourself, am I proud of the state I live in? Is this the path I want our state to continue on? Is this the future I want for my children, my grandchildren, and for those who will reside in this state long after I’m gone?  Because elections are all we have left.  The damage done to this state was both preventable and is now irreversible.  Those who have all the power will continue to abuse it, use it for their own political and financial gains, and in the end we all suffer together.  History tells us that the pendulum always swings when any party in power is perceived as having gone too far in their overreach.  I have faith that history will repeat itself–that the backlash from so many ill-advised policies will spawn a win for Democrats in 2016.  I’m also a realist.  And I just don’t know what it will take for so many ardent supporters to finally see through this man’s agenda, his willingness to destroy his own state for political gain and a shot at the presidency, and for those supporters to stop voting against their best interests and start voting for those who want this state to thrive again.  Walker supporters, what will it take?  What will you do in the next election?  It is you we need now to turn this around.  It is you we need to step up, put aside falsehoods, stereotypes, misplaced bitterness and anger, and vote for candidates that will restore this state to her glory.  Without you, we continue to suffer together.  Without you, our state remains divided and broken.  And without you, those drunk with power will continue to drive this state and its people further into desolation and despair.