Tonight's meeting of the Oshkosh Common Council should be interesting--as Councillor Caroline Panske returns to the dais for the first time since refusing to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance two weeks ago because she is angry Donald Trump won the Presidential election. We have heard from upset citizens and even a few groups that plan to come down to City Hall tonight and give Panske a piece of their minds. But if social media's reaction to Panske's actions are any indication, things could get ugly early. And that kind of discourse just gives credibility to Panske's belief that America under Trump will be hate-filled and intolerant. So here is my suggestion for those who want to go and "make a statement" tonight.
If you do go, leave the "Make America Great Again" hats and t-shirts at home. The election is over--your side won. Don't be that person that still drives around in their Volvo with the original "O" Obama bumper sticker from 2008 and a Russ Feingold sticker from 2010. Secondly, leave the flags at home as well. They have a flag in the Council chambers and that is the one everyone should be focused on for the pledge.
Don't boo Ms Panske when she comes into the room. Icy stares are okay. Fight the urge to give her the double-barrel "bird" too. To quote First Lady Michelle Obama: "When they go low, we go higher".
When it comes time for the Pledge itself, make it the loudest Pledge anyone has ever heard. There will be a group of kids from the local schools to lead everyone. Impress them with how much you believe in what you are saying and make them proud to be part of the exercise in democracy. And when the Pledge is done, don't whoop and holler, don't applaud and whistle, fight the urge to start a U-S-A!! chant. Your chance to make your statement is coming up quickly.
After a few administrative actions are taken, public comment will begin. When you come up to the microphone, don't address Ms Panske directly. Instead, use your five minutes to relate what the flag means to you. Tell the story of how your great-grandparents came over from Europe, went through Immigration at Ellis Island, learned English, and went to work--and who took incredible pride in the opportunity for a better life the Stars and Stripes represented for them. Or tell the story of the World War II veteran in your neighborhood who flew his flag on a lighted pole outside his house every day and night--replacing it if it ever showed the slightest sign of fading or fraying--because he had fought and defeated real fascism, and lost many a good friend in that effort. Or tell the story of the folded flag display your aunt keeps on her mantle in honor of her son that was killed in Vietnam and how she still cries on that date every year. Or talk about the pride you feel when you drive by a cemetery around Memorial Day or the Fourth of July and you see row after row of small flags marking the graves of all those who served our country.
That's my recommendation to make any protests tonight civil and educational--because people like Ms Panske and many other liberals believe that the United States of America is just about who is President and the Government's power over you--when the rest of us know its about the people that grant power to the government--and that is what we should have in mind when we put our hands over our hearts and recite that Pledge.