In Wisconsin, a faithful witness to revolt

By Wendy Cooper Divinity School student Wendy Cooper writes from outside the Capitol Building in Madison, WI. Walking through the … Continued

By Wendy Cooper

Divinity School student Wendy Cooper writes from outside the Capitol Building in Madison, WI.

Walking through the dense crowd of protesters inside the Capitol building in Madison, Wisconsin on day 3 of what is now being called the “Cheddar Revolution,” I was struck by the identification of the crowd with the people of Egypt, despite the stark differences between their circumstances.

The demonstrators in Madison, WI don’t look much like the demonstrators in Egypt. They come from the heart of conventional middle class America gathered by the thousands, with a strong sense of elementary school classroom etiquette at work. After all, public school teachers were a major group present. When quiet was needed among the thousands of protesters, fingers went up in the air – and magically the classroom technique of bringing quiet worked throughout the vast rotunda of Capitol building.

But what has reminded me, as a Protestant religious leader, of Tahrir Square is the looks on the people’s faces. People here are extremely determined and somewhat awestruck as well by their numbers and their determination. There is the same sense of revelation among the protesters. While comparisons between Governor Scott Walker and Hosni Mubarak were humorous, the mood among protesters was deadly serious. And the connection with the Egyptian people went deeper than simply sharing the act of protest.

For many people around the world it might be hard to imagine the American middle class needing revolution or liberation. Yet, a veil has been pulled back from before the eyes of many middle class Americans in Madison, who suddenly seem to understand their vulnerability in a new way.

The American middle class reminds me of the figure of the tax collector in the Gospels. They are often despised by people living in poverty below them because the tax collectors are enriched by their impoverishment. But they are not the system, they are not Rome. They are small cogs in a vast system of wealth and power of which they can claim little. And Jesus welcomes them to the liberation of discipleship.

Revolution is not a term commonly found in the middle class lexicon. But the “Cheddar Revolution” will live up to its name if the revelation takes hold that the middle class is closer in significant ways to the people of Egypt who took to the street than to the “Romans” in our midst whose wealth and power we are only beginning to fully understand.

Wendy Cooper is a student in the Masters of Divinity program at Chicago Theological Seminary. She is a member of the United Church of Christ and lives in Madison, Wisconsin.

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  • persiflage

    Why middle class Americans continue to vote in republicans is the bigger mystery here. This attempt to sabotage collective bargaining on the part of a republican governor in Wisconsin shouldn’t be at all surprising.Reagan started the movement to dissemble unions quite a while back. The only people that EVER benefit with a republican in office are rich folks that don’t need the money to begin with.Voting in republicans is no solution to disliking democrats – and hasn’t been for 30 years. The GOP is like a computer virus that’s almost impossible to get rid of – and obstructs every good thing anyone tries to accomplish for ordinary folks.

  • Warthog104

    I live in Wi. The people did speak by their vote in Nov. This is an example of mob rule.

  • WmarkW

    Middle class voters are tired to having to choose between the party that transfers wealth to the idle rich and the one that transfers it to the idle poor.I wish luck to those middle class Egyptians who rallied for opportunities worthy of their education, but fear their democracy will be dominated by those that have genitally mutilated 80% of the women there.The Republicans have successfully channeled middle class anger at the Democrats’ spending programs and blocking of the Arizona illegal immigrant enforcement. Let’s see if opposition to this Republican initiative goes anywhere but see-sawing the same fulcrum.

  • DigestivePolitics


  • 82ndairborne

    Conservative Republicans nationwide have no problem generalizing state employees as worthless, incompetent, substandard leeches on the taxpayers backs. When you have that attitude toward a group and your “base” agrees with you – it becomes much easier to bad-mouth them in the media and just use your power to take away their rights as citizens. That way you don’t have to negotiate anything.

  • thomasmc1957

    The Tea Party is just fascism wrapped in a flag.

  • Richie5

    $300,000,000.00 Fund Raiser for “””Obama Proof of Eligibility””” Right now millions of Americans want to donate money to any group who will go after Obama and produce all his records? Upwards of 100 million people are demanding his records and willing to pay to see them, even large amounts of money woudl be donated some say by individuals? One person said, “Real long term success and greatness in our country are founded upon the principles that people do not lie, cheat, or steal but Obama does not know the meaning of these words. Our nation is neither succeeding nor is great at this point in time because we have allowed Obama’s voice to grow and spread throughout our society. Shame on us, we shuld have said stop the lying long ago…

  • hellowashington

    I am from Wisconsin. I support the rights of union workers to have bargaining rights. Republicans don’t know the first thing about work. Cheddar revolution will overcome the tea revolution. Dump the tea & republicans!! By the the way birthers , How many of your ancestors were illegal immigrants ? If they are illegal, you are illegal in this country as well !!

  • YEAL9

    We await any suggestions on how to balance the federal, state and city budgets.

  • Farnaz2Mansouri21

    Good for those Fourteen Democrats! Gives me hope that the “left” isn’t entirely in the grave.WISCONSIN LABOR. GO NATIONAL.Give it another week; then put out the call.GO NATIONAL, WISCONSIN LABOR.Bring unions back to America. We’re with you!

  • YEAL9


  • olsons_odyssey

    I doubt this writer would have come to such conclusions if the roles were reversed and conservatives were out there in mass. I would guess the media would not praise them, as this article does. The dems who fled are called heroes for breaking down democracy. Yet if this had been conservatives, the media would have vilified them. We are in the midst of an economic crisis. What I don’t understand is how unions work. In the private sector unions will go on strike when a company is about to fold. They refuse to take a cut in pay to keep the business going. So it seems they would rather lose their jobs than to take that cut. Seems illogical to me. Same in the government work force. The state of Wisconsin, like California (thought it is probably worse), is broke. How do these people expect the government to pay them if there is no money? Ah yes, tax everyone. So you have high unemployment and you want to tax those who are barely making it as it is. Sounds pretty selfish if you ask me.

  • StewartIII

    NewsBusters: WaPo/Newsweek ‘On Faith’ Feature Finds a Liberal Theological Angle to Wisconsin Protests

  • david6

    “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.”It’s too bad that Governor Walker claims to be Christian but behaves in a way that shows that he has nothing but contempt for what Jesus taught.