Justice in Mukwonago, Wisconsin

Rain Koepke, a Native America (Shawnee) senior at Mukwonago (WI) High School, has taken a heroic stand against the school district which has refused his complaint to change the name and symbols of their athletic teams.  For years, the high school has used the name “Indians,” and uses symbols that carry the theme.

He has to taken his complaint to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction which is charged with upholding the new state law that has tightened restrictions on the use of athletic team nicknames and symbols that may disparage certain ethnic groups, mainly Native Americans.   Virtually the whole community is opposed to his proposal, it seems, supporting a recalcitrant school board and  school administration.

Koepke has supporters, though, and one of those standing with him is Tom Sobottke, a longtime social studies teacher at the school.  Tom has mentored the boy and is showing similar courage by supporting him.  With Tom, it’s a matter of principle, and while it could make his position at the school uncomfortable, he is forthright in his  support.  Tom, to be sure, showing his support only during his personal time and is not bringing the subject up in the classroom, unless asked.

For the record, Tom is a friend and a onetime member of the board of the Wisconsin Labor History Society.  For the details of the story of Rain Koepke, go to Tom’s blogsite and checkout his recent postings on this incident.

A Shameful Rally

“. . .when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last! Free at last!”

With these words, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., ended his “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D. C. on August 28, 1963.  This dramatic conclusion and the eloquent words before it called for the peoples of America, of all races, creeds and colors to join hands and walk forward in peace and harmony.

This coming Saturday, on the 47th Anniversary of that glorious inspiration, that same spot will be mocked by a charlatan preaching hate and division.  Fox News’ Glenn Beck is staging his “Restoring Honor” rally that day, a day in which he and his other  speakers no doubt will spew forth divisive talk, such  as they have done over the last several weeks, spreading unwarranted fears against Muslin American citizens.

What a mockery of the message of hope and harmony that resonated in the words of Dr. King!

There’s a deeper reason for far-right propagandist Beck’s staging of this rally … beyond his obvious quest for self aggrandizement — and that’s that it will continue to politically appeal to more and more white Americans through their fear of people of color and of other cultures.  Sadly, too many Americans are falling prey to these messages of fear, and may tilt the ballot boxes in November to vote for candidates who, if elected, would do harm to the message of Dr. King.

What should we do, those of us who believe in the American dream that “all men [and women] are created equal,” to counter this messenger of hate?  The answer lies in our own speaking up for our values of justice and equality.  We have a positive and strong message to make.  Let’s make it!