I think I can safely say we all as law makers greet this session with some caution, some dread. From home with families, we leave behind jobs as teachers, accountants, small business owners, farmers and insurance agents and we converge with three months of furniture, files and tokens of home to settle here in the city with the gleaming new Capitol and hundreds of millions of dollars in budget shortfalls waiting for us in the year ahead. It is bitter sweet the hugs of hello and the battles we know are ahead where we will have to draw lines and choose sides on layoffs, pay cuts, the decimation of state functions, tax increases and cuts to universities and childrens' class rooms.
And it is an election year. That more than anything hangs in the air like an odor, a place we have to go soon where we have to divide ourselves along party lines in spite of how much we agree on so many things, where we do all we can to drive wedges, inspire ire in order to come out the other end in November victorious. For my Republican colleagues this year must ache because the fights within their own party are growing cruel.
This year probably more than any year we've known, men and women our economy has chosen to forget for much of a decade gather in parks and town halls. While others grew wealthy, these frustrated now gravitate into mobs bitter and angry, understandably ready to blame anyone in power for their plight.
Tea bags stapled to hat rims, people who may never have engaged in politics before this year stepped up to microphones. Now we all turn stunned when we should have known this was coming. Economies do not collapse without leaving people scared and angry. History has much to say about how easily a bitter populace can be manipulated by those with an agenda; insurance companies, organized political factions, or moneyed lobbyists with paid consultants and email lists. I worry that well meaning people have been intentionally plied, their anger turned on neighbors and newcomers rather than on those who benefited most through the hard time we face.
I guess this year I hope desperately for clarity in the anger, a determination to have justice in itself, a fair share, respect and policy to heal the wrongs rather than simply revenge hammered down on some easy target, some peripheral minority or individual who plays into racist or anti-Muslim fears. May those truly responsible pay; the ones who started the wars which drive our deficits, the ones who cut corporate taxes shifting burdens from the wealthy onto to average families, driving wages down and medical and mortgage debt up. Yes, let it be Al-Qaeda or the banks, the regulators, insurers and oil companies, but let anyone except the innocent take the blame. I know we all choose the guilty and the blameless based on our political ideology. How sinister is it though to manipulate people bankrupt, jobless, hungry or frustrated.
This year in those marble halls too may will look behind them on every vote, seeing the riled crowd looming large and forgetting the consequences of what the furious ask for. We all have a new draft at our necks, new whispers in our throats: "Please, please, don't let the angry see me as the enemy. Please don't let me be to them one of the evil ones."