Letter from the Northwest: What would Walker do?

Despite the impressive effort to recall her, Sheila Harsdorf retained her seat in the Wisconsin Senate this August. Sore winner Elizabeth Frederick, of Frederic, took this as an opportunity to share a very tellingly uninformed perspective in a letter to the editor of The Leader titled "We the People."

Not everyone was in District 10, however, was fooled. This guest post is Kristine Emerson's response, an abbreviated version of which was published in The Leader.

There is a lot of talk in Wisconsin about how Madison and Milwaukee - and progressives in general - don't represent the rest of the state, about how "the silent majority" possesses "conservative values" that are somehow out of touch with our big-city ways.  Not only is this patently untrue, it's utter nonsense.  The threat Scott Kevin Walker poses to our state is bipartisan and knows no bounds: if you are not rich, you lose in his Wisconsin.  Positioning this crisis as a conflict of "values" is a distraction and an absurdity, and - from the sound of Ms. Frederick's letter - working.  Thank goodness for people like Kristine Emerson, who stand up for the voice of reason and exposing the hypocrisy of using the Bible to defend and promote political agendas which only hurt the majority of people, and most significantly the most vulnerable among us, wherever we live.  We're all in this together, and the sooner we realize that, the sooner we can get to work together. Thank you, Kristine, for sharing your letter and moving us one step forward.

It hasn’t been easy, but I’ve been very restrained after reading the Letters to the Editor of this paper since Scott Walker pulled his bait and switch back in February.   I had hoped to continue to restrain myself, but last week’s letter from Elizabeth Peterson was the last I can read and stay silent.

What set me over the edge was her assertation that that “it is impossible to be a true, Bible-believing Christian and support the Democratic Party” if we are pro-choice, combined with her opinion that Gov. Walker’s attack on the teacher’s union was necessary to make changes to “bring everything back in perspective.”

The facts are: none of the Democrats were recalled, and two Republican seats were lost.  If that look “triumphant” to you, I guess that’s okay.  It took me days to feel good about taking the two seats away from Republicans, but I’m good with it now.  Absolutely better than losing two of our own!

I know many teachers, both in Wisconsin and in other states.  I don’t know of even one who does not spend their own money providing supplies for their classrooms, and spending a fair amount of time at home, in the evenings, grading papers and working on lesson plans.  They are teachers because it is a calling, they love sharing knowledge with the next generation.  If we don’t take care of our teachers, we will have a much bigger mess than the huge failure called No Child Left Behind.  These children are the future of our country!

Scott Walker didn’t get much press up here.  We got a lot about Bachman and Dayton and the Minnesota leaders, but precious little about Scott Walker.   I will never let that happen again.  His history as Milwaukee County Executive was not unlike what we are seeing as him in the Governor’s Office.   That is pretty impressive for a college dropout.

During his run for the Milwaukee County Executive seat, he announced to a large crowd that he would not cut treatment funding to AODA (Alcohol & Other Drug Abuse).  Of course, that is exactly what he did.  Treatment advocates were enraged, and many in the faith community were shocked that he would say one thing and do the opposite!  He was reminded that they had video showing his promise, and the County board later restored part of the money.  Under such pressure, he didn’t veto the restored funding.

He also cut the General Assistance Medical Program.  The uninsured relied on that program for years to provide health care for the poor.  He instituted a $35 fee for people to use the program, which seems reasonable until you realize the poor and/or indigent do not have $35.  Hospitals experienced a spike in ER visits, which brought about higher insurance premiums to those who did have insurance.

He cut funding to shelters for Battered Women.  These women, often along with their children, are victims of domestic violence and have few safe havens.  What a great guy he is!  He’s definitely living by the Bible in terms of taking care of the less fortunate.

The true precursor, which I was not aware of and I never read in any media up here, was that in early 2010, he fired 26 security guards, public employees represented by a union, who worked at the Milwaukee County Courthouse.  He fired them anyway, and hired private security contractor Wackenhut G4S to provide security at the Courthouse and two other venues in the county, under a $1.1 million contract.  He made this choice because of a “budget emergency”.  Does that sound familiar?  In January of 2011, an arbitrator ruled that there was no budget crisis at the time the guards were fired, the County failed to give the union a chance to propose alternatives, and that the savings Walker claimed were overstated.   The County had to rehire the fired guards, with back pay.  They were promised at least 180 days of work to make up for the time that should have been given to the union to react.

Walker doesn’t like unions, period.  And he doesn’t care much whether he follows the rules or not.  That’s scary.

That’s just a few of his moves during his time as Milwaukee County Executive.  We’ve seen similar bait and switch from him since he took office.  Research is your best friend when choosing who to vote for – you can’t believe the mail you get from the candidates, nor can you believe any ad you see or hear in the media.  A very good example is Shelly Moore’s comment, “We breathe Union” that was used repeatedly to boost Sheila Harsdorf.

You know you want to know the context of that clip, because if you don’t you fell for propaganda in a mud-slinging party.   The clip was taken as Shelly was introducing herself as a first time political candidate.  She said, “We bleed Packer green, Brewer blue and Badger red.  We believe that the three major food groups are beer, cheese and bratwurst.  And we breathe unions, too.”

Once upon a time, that was true.  Gov. Walker’s hard line of anti-union rhetoric created the need for her to even consider running.  Many people in Wisconsin are union, even if they don’t live in this corner of the state.

So let me ask you which is worse?  That Shelly Moore added a pro-union line to her announcement that she would run against Harsdorf, or that the Republicans felt it was just and correct to run bogus candidates to force a primary?  They didn’t even try to hide it!   The Republican I share my life with voted for Shelly Moore, calling the primary election “dirty politics”.  And it was.  If you can find triumph in that well known, well publicized thumbing of the nose at our political system, you have more ethical issues than most.

Let’s get to Ms. Peterson’s point of abortion and what God says in the Bible about it.  But first, let me clarify my own Christianity.  My faith is Gnostic.  My path is to follow the words of Jesus only.

I spent my childhood in a church more fundamental than most up here.  No cushions on the pews, no musical accompaniment – just straight, hard line dogma.  The Bible was drilled into me there, and I studied it was joy and fervor in high school when we found a church that actually celebrated the gift that Jesus brought for us.  I am not unschooled in the Bible, by any means.

I have never seen abortion addressed in the Bible.   After reading Ms. Peterson’s letter, I thought maybe I had missed something about God having an opinion on abortion.   So I hit the codex, and researched the internet for Pro-Choice groups that use scripture as a means to support their stand.   I even went to the Pro-Life website, which was pretty tough to do since before moving here in 1995, I attended more than one Pro-Choice rally with my son in a Snuggie on my chest.

Yes, I am pro-choice, but I do have an issue with late term abortion.  I have two children that were premature; one was born at 32 weeks, one at 31 weeks.   Both of them are healthy.   If people do not want an abortion, they should not have one.  But to call it “pro-abortion” is ludicrous.  No one is “pro-abortion”.  It is a painful, difficult decision for 99% of the women who make the choice.  The Pro-Life groups are adamant that abortion should be made illegal because it offends their sense of righteousness.  Here’s what Jesus said about a situation not unlike this one:

“Two men went to the Temple to pray.  One was a proud, self-righteous Pharisee, and the other a cheating tax collector.  The proud Pharisee ‘prayed’ this prayer: ‘Thank God, I am not a sinner like everyone else, especially like that tax collector over there!  For I never cheat, I don’t commit adultery, I got without food twice a week, and I give to God a tenth of everything I earn.’  But the corrupt tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed, but beat upon his chest in sorrow, exclaiming, ‘ God, be merciful to me, a sinner.’  I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home forgiven!  For the proud shall be humbled, but the humble shall be honored.”  Luke 18:9-14

The Pro-Life groups have a great deal of Biblical quotes, but not much that really indicates what God thinks in terms of ending a pregnancy before the child is viable outside the womb; they have taken the verses out of context to make their point.  I could easily do that as well to show that there were thoughts of not being born reflected in the Bible.  Solomon and Job are two examples I found right away, I’m sure there are more.
I can understand feeling anti-abortion.  It is an abhorrent situation, and a difficult decision.  Making it illegal will not cause it to stop.  The past shows that.

My biggest problem with the pro-life movement is that once a child is born, they really don’t seem to care much anymore.   Look at the cuts to Badger Care, WIC, the Food Assistance programs, all cheered by the Religious Right. 

Ah, say the conservatives.  Those people are just using the system, and those of us who work hard are paying for them it leach off of us!  Guess what?  With the economy the way it is, especially since the trillions and trillions of dollars that bailed out corporate thieves like Bank of America and AIG, working isn’t enough to feed our kids anymore.  If Insurance is available, it’s too expensive to afford.  And with all the small businesses up here, not many of them offer insurance for employees.  It’s not leaching.  It’s helping the less fortunate.

What did Jesus think of that kind of thinking?

“Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones…For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me.  I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink.  I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home.  I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing.  I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’  Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’  And He will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’”

Do you worship God and His Son, or do you worship the Republican Party?

Kristine Emerson
Luck, WI


  1. Bravo Kristine! Thank you Heather for sharing her letter! These folks who pick and choose items from the Bible, as if it were a menu are really getting on my last dang nerve!

    But, on the other hand, more and more of the truth about Rick Perry is coming out, and that is a good thing!

  2. A brilliantly written letter! Thank you, Kristine. I have many of the same struggles and I live in PA. You dealt with Walker and his record in an admirable manner, you dealt with the abortion issue, which most people either avoid or stumble over, and you dealt with their Bible-professing ways quite well. Thank you! May you continue to campaign for what is right, and may God continue his blessings upon you. Thank you!

  3. Thank you, Ron. You made my day. (It feels amazing to be writing again for public consumption!)

  4. Oh Boy!!! The new edition of our weekly paper has hit the stands, and I'm going to pick one up. I have it online as well, but the response to my letter from the King of the Right Wing Freaks (who has moved to Isanti, thank whatever deity you choose) has responded to me with a bunch of sh...er, crap. Lots of quoting the OLD Testament of the Bible, and trying to disparage that Jesus will not be amused that they did not care for "the least of these".

    Trust me, I'm already writing it in my head. Will scan and send his letter, as well as my response, as soon as I'm back from grocery (and newspaper!) shopping!