Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Politics and Spirituality in Watertown Wisconsin

Well the aldermanic ballots are counted Peter lost. Not surprising really. Watertown is a red island within a blue state. He got 25% of the vote the exact ratio of progressive to conservative in the populous. He's a science teacher in a population whose fringes pull their kids out of class for bible studies and would prefer creationism to physics. And well we don't belong to a church, which is really frightening to some locals. Yes we have a stone circle in our backyard where local firemen came and put out our Yule fire while Peter stepped in the house for 5 minutes to get bells. The frightened neighbors from across the yards called. I mean seriously a fire no bigger than a BBQ in an enclosed stone fire pit surrounded by a sea of snow away from buildings by a half a football field. Later we heard the gold sun mask that we had hanging on a tree freaked out the fireman . The sun mask represented the sun since we never actually get to see the sunrise from the divot in the yard where the circle resides. Seriously folks we just ring bells to wake up the newborn sun and welcome the returning light. It's ritual it's ancient and people have been doing it since they started keeping track of the seasons nothing evil about it. Ignorance and fear go hand in hand around here and perhaps it's time to quit minding our own business and start educating about what pagans do.

Our good friends Peggy and Kathleen came out last night to watch the returns we went down to Lyons pub and hung out. Jim the owner gave us a tour of the upper floors of the building he bought for a dollar with the promise of doing the reparations. The building was built a hundred fifty years ago when Watertown was at its height...a cultural Mecca and very nearly the state capital. In it's day the building had a functioning ballroom in the upper most 3rd floor. It had been a gathering place for a fraternity called the brotherhood of Pythia. I'm thinking Pythia as on the oracle of Delphi. Maybe? Early Watertown history is so fascinating to me. There is a Masonic temple here too just a few blocks away in another defunct department store from my childhood. The early history of Watertown is one sided and fuzzy at best trying to get to the heart of the initial contact and evolution of Watertown and the reality of the first contact between the original settlement of 1000 Ho Chunk and Potowatomi and the first German settlers who were religious reformers and the influx of rich Yankee lawyers from New York who made Watertown their cultural playground, well the information is limited. There seems to be no documentation of the details of the Native history here. But I remember spending my childhood immersed in a wash of strong bleed through from that era. Spending much of my early years before grade 5 dressed in clothes from the period whenever we played. I had that same feeling when viewing the remains of the ballroom last night. Water damage in the 80's left this vital building in ruin the ceilings buckled plaster and wallpaper dripping hardware stripped by the previous out of state owners.
Just 30 years ago Lyon's was a JCPenney's department store 3 stories of clothing and a catalog department in the rear. The rest of the building housed a Kressege's 5 and dime. My grandmother and aunt worked there and my friends and I shopped there every Saturday stopping at the classic soda fountain lunch counter for French fries and Club sandwiches for lunch...back in the day when McDonalds was only a special treat and could only be found in Milwaukee or Madison. To look at the ruins of this once vibrant place was a shock I mean Egypt itself had faired better. The influx of franchised businesses like McDonalds, Shopko, Ace Hardware and JoAnne Fabrics had truly sucked the life out of the once vital downtown. The businesses once owned by citizens had been squeezed out by large chains owned by absentee owners who took their profits out of the city leaving it a burned out shell if it's former self. The locals still high on big discount stores never make the connection of job loss and low incomes to the chain stores instead they will blame the new populations of Hispanic people in town.
Just like the Yankee's blamed the Irish and the Italians when they first arrived back in the day.
Jim the owner also opposes the idea of a light rail that would connect Watertown to Milwaukee, Madison, Chicago and Minneapolis because it would raise the taxes. Never thinking about the possibilities and job opportunism and visitors with money who might like an adventure to someplace new small and quant. There would be job opportunities in other public transportation like shuttles or even buggy rides if people were creative and smart using the historic value and playing on it. Young and old people could really use an option for getting around without the expense of a car. Right now there is no public transportation not even a bus to connect Watertown directly to the big cities or the major airports if you don't have your own car here you're screwed.

Anyway this is where my head is this morning after the lost election. Peggy and Kathleen imagined an event in the ballroom with the new tarot paintings I'm working on it would be an ideal spot. I imagined a time when local people owned their own businesses again when the banks loaned money to local small businesses and the money circulated locally and the abundance of life came from trade, artisans and craftsman who took pride in their work instead of dependence on the war machine and oppositional political theater. Where opposing points of view and fear fills the coffers of both sided of any partisan issue. Where each side plays the other for capital gain and neighbors fear the other will fill their children's minds with godlessness. Where my daughter’s high school friends sign up for the military because it seems like an easy option. And I know what the emotional repercussions will be to the generations to come with fathers and now mothers too who come back emotionally damaged from yet another war. We all need better options there is work to be done there are workers who need work and yet our historic American treasures lay in ruin waiting for funding...The ballroom like my small hometown is no more finished than my next deck of tarot cards and there is a lot of work ahead of us...we have long way to go till we all see better days ahead.

4 comments:

Peter J. said...

The metaphor of the Lyons building and the city itself is apropos Julie. A neglected structure that has fallen from grace and hints at the high society that once roamed its halls and ballrooms.

Though I thought that I had really had a chance to win this election- based on my thoughtful responses to the newspaper's questions, my canvasing, fielding questions and the yard signs- I lost to a local Watertownian who didn't spend a penny on getting his message out. He had his bit in the paper as I did but there was nothing to demonstrate that he is up to the challenge of getting Watertown back on the cultural map. His response wasn't in the least controversial but then it wasn't an enlightened response either. He won 50% of the vote because he is a local, because he belongs to a Christian church and he drinks with his men-friends at the Rotary and other 'clubs'. This city is in danger from its inbreeding and lack of diversity.

I'm sorry that I lost this election but politics would be a difficult road for me. I'd be a ghost- like the American Indians whose apparitions appear only to the evolved initiates. I need to listen more intently to what the Universe wants me to do. Thank you for your support Julie.

Joanne said...

I'm sorry you lost the election. However, I was married to a politician who was a "local" in a small town that sounds a little like yours. I saw first hand how unfair politics are. My ex won many elections based on empty promises and spouting crap. Peter, I don't know you very well, but you represent a population that is so much better than all the garbage that goes on behind the public eye. I think, in this case, you are the victor. Chin up, young person!

Anonymous said...

Our politics couldn't be more different, and I'm sorry for the pain of the loss; but I AM glad Peter ran. Despite the intrinsic messiness of politics, participating the the process is ultimately the only way to make lasting changes. I have huge respect for high-integrity people who take action -- and take risks, as Peter did -- to advance what they believe. So, while we differ significantly on which means will take us to our common end, bravo! I hope you will remain active in influencing your community.

Warmly,
Terri

dancilhoney said...

I also didn't expect too much of a generic tarot but was very impressed... tarot readings