Letter to Tammy Baldwin

Tammy Baldwin speaking at Fighting Bob Fest, 2013, while peace activists hold signs and protest her unwillingness to say she'll vote no on any war or action against Syria.  Photo by Callen Harty.

Tammy Baldwin speaking at Fighting Bob Fest, 2013, while peace activists hold signs and protest her unwillingness to say she’ll vote no on any war or action against Syria. Photo by Callen Harty.

Dear Senator Baldwin,

I appreciate a Senator looking at all sides of an issue before making a decision. After all, the Senate is supposed to be the more deliberative body. But your words at Fighting Bob Fest on Saturday seemed like equivocation to me. I understand you may have been rattled by progressives protesting you at a progressive event where you likely felt safe and wouldn’t have your views questioned.

But that is one of the differences between the left and the right. On the left we don’t blindly follow someone or support them because of a party label or past history. We hold our own to the fire as much as we hold others accountable. I voted for Barack Obama and I voted for you, but that doesn’t mean that I will support either one of you leading us into unnecessary military action.

While you steadfastly refused to answer a young man about whether you were going to vote yes or no on the Syria question you quoted the famed anti-war speech that Senator Bob LaFollette delivered to explain his no vote on the question of our entry into World War I. After your speech The Progessive editor, Matt Rothschild, pointedly suggested that by reading from that speech you must have been telling us that you plan to vote your conscience and the will of the people. I only hope that your conscience aligns with the will of the people. As you saw when those in attendance were asked to stand if they opposed attacking Syria most of the people stood. Later, when our Congressional Representative Mark Pocan clearly stated he would vote no there was a very loud ovation. The people you represent do not want our military to engage in yet more actions in yet more places. We are already stretched too thin with wars in places where we don’t belong.

There are many reasons not to attack Syria. I don’t need to enumerate them for you. You have probably heard all of them already and you have probably also heard classified information that the rest of us don’t have. You are getting pressure from all sides on the issue, including from the President who is the de facto leader of your party. But if you want to be a leader you have to lead; you cannot wait for the weather report to figure out which way the wind blows and then stand where you will be most protected. A previous Democratic President, John F. Kennedy, was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for writing Profiles in Courage, a book about politicians who did the right thing morally even at the risk of their political lives. You need to take a principled and courageous stand on this issue. If you don’t your soul will die as certainly as those bodies lost to the bloodshed of war. You will also lose the support of many of those who have stood by you, voted for you, and fought for you to get where you are today.

Please do consider all the options. Please do ask President Obama the tough questions you said you will ask. Ask him why we have to handle this with military action. Ask him why we are not considering other options. Ask him for definitive proof–not great likelihoods–about what happened. Ask yourself if his answers are satisfactory. Ask yourself if his answers were coming from George W. Bush whether you would feel the same. This is not about party politics. It is not about protecting America. It comes down to looking for a different way to handle our world issues than to immediately think we must support our weapons manufacturers by using their products on innocent civilians in faraway lands. It is time for us to blaze a new way of peace as we try to salvage the earth and its inhabitants. You can either take the way of supporting the old military-industrial complex and responding with military might or you can be one of the leaders in forging a new way into a better future. Please consider all the information you have, vote wisely, and vote no.

About Callen Harty

Originally from Shullsburg, Wisconsin Callen Harty is the author of four books and numerous published essays, poems, and articles. His most recent book is The Stronger Pull, a memoir about coming out in a small town in Wisconsin. His first book was My Queer Life, a compilation of over 30 years worth of writing on living life as a queer man. It includes essays, poems, speeches, monologues, and more. Empty Playground: A Survivor's Story, is a memoir about surviving childhood sex abuse. His play, Invisible Boy, is a narrative with poetic elements and is also an autobiographical look as surviving child sex abuse. All are available on Amazon.com (and three of them on Kindle) or can be ordered through local bookstores, He has written almost two dozen plays and 50 monologues that have been produced. Most of them have been produced at Broom Street Theater in Madison, Wisconsin where he started as an actor, writer, and director in 1983. He served as the Artistic Director of the theater from 2005-2010. Monologues he wrote for the Wisconsin Veterans’ Museum won him awards from the Wisconsin Historical Society and the American Association of State and Local History. He has also had essays, poems, and articles published in newspapers and magazines around the country and has taken the top prize in several photo contests. His writing has appeared in Out!, James White Review, Scott Stamp Monthly, Wisconsin State Journal, and elsewhere. He has had several essays published online for Forward Seeking, Life After Hate, and The Progressive. Callen has also been a community activist for many years. He was the co-founder of Young People Caring, UW-Madison’s 10% Society, and Proud Theater. He served as the first President of Young People Caring and as the Artistic Director for Proud Theater for its first five years. He is still an adult mentor for the group. In 2003 he won OutReach’s Man of the Year award for his queer community activism. OutReach is Madison, Wisconsin’s lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender community center. He also won a Community Shares of Wisconsin Backyard Hero award for his sex abuse survivor activism work. He has been invited to speak before many community groups, at a roundtable on queer community theater in New York City, and has emceed several events. In 2016, Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault named him their annual Courage Award winner for his activism, writing, and speaking on sexual assault.
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5 Responses to Letter to Tammy Baldwin

  1. Dianne says:

    Tammy you ran as a Progressive and a fighter. The greatest fighter is the one who fights for peace not for bombs.

  2. Teresa Doyle says:

    Yesterday, MSNBC featured a Senator who is one of 16 Vets who are senators in this country. He said of his Iraqie Veteran Co horts, “14 out 16 of us say no to this war”

  3. Teresa Doyle says:

    And someone please ask Tammy Baldwin why she voted for seed corporations to allow freedom from the truth of pesticides ingredients. I wish Marc Pocan would run for her spot next time.

  4. bryan Bliss says:

    here is the speech. her FULL speech shows she is already speaking strongly against rushing into war and makes it clear she will be no lockstep blind supporter of the president if she decides his intentions go against her conscience. http://youtu.be/8MWkneS5fFg i do not think Tammy Baldwin will rush us into another war, though i would like that commitment made more specific and clear from her.

    • Callen Harty says:

      I’ll post the same reply here that I posted to your comment on Facebook:
      That’s pretty much what I’m talking about in the blog post, Bryan. She quoted LaFollette, she said she wants all the information, etc., but she won’t answer the question. How much more information will she be taking in before the vote? I think she needs to let her constituents know where she stands. Like you I think it’s time for her to be specific and clear, and I hope that she will vote no after her careful consideration.

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