As I write this, I sit at my desk in stunned tears.
My local senator, Linda Berglin, is retiring from the Minnesota Senate.
"During the last six months," Berlin's prepared statement read, "I felt that my talents and skills have been underutilized in the Minnesota Senate. As I see so much of what I have worked on over the years being chipped away or repealed entirely, I worry that our state is moving away from the community spirit that has made us such a great place."
My god, I thought. The bullies have won. Thanks to a bunch of inexperienced naysayers bent on protecting millionaires over serving the rest of us, Berglin is leaving.
Although we low- and moderate-income families have lost a champion, I don't blame her for going. I have often wondered how on earth she weathered the long, exhausting hours and the frustrating debates with people who did not care about the people she represented. I have often wondered how much more she could take in this era of budget shortfalls and budget mismanagement.
What must it have been like for her to bang her head against an unyielding, uncaring wall and watch the results of her hard, caring, thoughtful work being dismantled?
I am grateful to Berglin for what she did for me and for my family. Her most important legacy was cofounding MinnesotaCare. My family was on this excellent health care program for years. She saved my peace of mind. She helped me care for my family. And she always, always listened to us and spoke up for us.
She gave me hope, like the best legislators do: I felt all was not lost, knowing that there was someone representing the rest of us -- the ones who worked hard but never seemed to have anything left over at the end of the month; the ones who have disabilities or who care for kids with impairments. The ones who live in the underfunded inner city. The ones others just wish would all go away.
I am terribly sorry to see her go.
And I am afraid. I am afraid for my community. I am afraid for my state, which for so long has stood for investment in education, for care for all in the community, and for reasonable, rational debate and compromise.
Why are we letting this happen? When experienced, hardworking and selfless legislators like Berglin leave because they do not feel they can make any difference in the Legislature anymore, who is left to fight for us?
Well, we are, I suppose. The people who elected her in the first place. We can refuse to allow the "I've got mine and to hell with the rest" mentality that has gripped our government to prevail.
But right now I'm feeling hopeless and frightened, and I wonder how on earth we're going to manage it.