And A Little Child Shall Lead Them

‘Tis the eye unveils the heart, every pure and tender feeling, every emotion worth revealing. . . ‘Tis the eye unveils the heart.”

Lyrics by Franz Von Kobell, 1849
English Translation by Stephen Collins Foster, 1851

The old man with a long gray beard sat and watched the spectacle. Hundreds of thousands of the confused populace of the State of Wisconsin stretching yet again around the Capitol: democracy in action.

A woman with a child harnessed protectively over her belly carried a sign which read: “My baby and I would have died without Badger Care.”

An Electrical Worker of the Brotherhood of Electrical Workers passed by and revealed he had come from New Mexico to stand with his Union brothers and sisters.

A Wisconsin teacher on crutches with a surgically scarred knee had come to be there despite the climb up the stairs to the seat of government she had consented to be governed by but about which she was having grave doubts.

A retired woman sat with the old man and told of the harm being done to seniors and her concerns over Medicare.

Professional musicians, one an Oscar and Grammy winner, performed for the chilled thousands upon thousands stretching up and down the boulevards of the Capitol Square. The songs of Woody Guthrie, and the labor anthem “Solidarity” were heard yet again.

Actor Tony Shaloub may have given the best address of the day. Shaloub, a Wisconsin native of Green Bay, introduced his sister Amy, a Wisconsin speech therapist and teacher from Green Bay and announced that the day marked not just another political rally but ‘the birth of a movement” to recover democracy in Wisconsin and around the nation.

Actress Susan Sarandon told the crowd that Wisconsin was the front line in the battle to restore America’s middle class.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson connected the people to those suffering in Japan from the recent earthquake and tsunami and commenting about how our planet is so interconnected and had become such a small place for us all.

Then a middle-aged couple with what looked to be a seven or at most eight-year-old son appeared. They talked with the old man and the old man told the son, who had told him his name was Simon, that “he was making history.” The old man advised the boy to listen to his momma as he grows up and to always do what is right instead of what makes money or gives power.

But it was the boys face, and specifically his eyes, that attracted the full attention of the gray-bearded old man; more than anything did the entire day. Over one hundred thousand human beings and all he could see was this boy’s eyes. Tears streamed down the boy’s cheeks. He was plainly in emotional turmoil. His parents revealed they were a small, independent dairy-farming family from a small town far north of the Capitol. They’d come to Madison to seek redress of grievances with the most direct of appeals citizens can make.

Farming has always been a struggle for the family. Milk prices are not enough to support the family any longer; in the fact the father admitted they had never been. They too had come to seek justice for themselves and all of their fellow citizens who have been so grievously injured by a government which feels beyond any reason or control.

Another protestor carried a sign which had the old man pondering and reflecting all day and without any sort of acceptable answer:

“Why have so few ignored so many?”

In the boy’s eyes the old man finally had his answer. The people with power in the state suffer from a love and compassion deficit disorder: their incapacity to look directly into this boy’s eyes, and do the right thing.

The encounter with the boy had finally stripped away all the politics, the bitter wrangling, the anger, the immorality, and placed the issue squarely before him.

This was not only a battle over collective bargaining rights, more broadly all civil rights, and democracy: it was a fight for this boy’s health and well-being and the world he sees through his eyes. Right now his family’s livelihood is in dire threat. His parents are obviously under a great strain and he sees and feels it. His world has been turned upside down.

Questions that this boy would be asking those in power if he could at age seven but articulate them might be just why they are hurting his parents so? What will become of us? Will I have a school to go to where I can learn and take my place and help my mom and dad?

Lest you think that Simon’s parents are abusing him by bringing him to this history-making, great breath of democracy that was this Saturday, March 12, 2011 in Madison, Wisconsin at the Capitol: a day that he will forever remember, the boy suddenly smiled to the old man with eyes that told all he had to know, stepped forward like some little boy who was doing a great deal of growing up that day and shook the old man’s hand. He quickly retired to the embrace of his mother and to the proud smiles of his father.

This is what democracy looks like. And too many of Wisconsin’s leaders, all Republicans, have not been able to look that boy in the eye and resolve his dilemmas. They have failed to be able to love and show compassion.

Over a hundred thousand beings in the state’s greatest political venue and it all came down to the look in a seven-year-old boy’s eyes.

And a little child shall lead them.

‘Tis the eye unveils the heart, every pure and tender feeling, all emotions worth revealing. . . ‘Tis the eye unveils the heart.

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