Category Archives: Hope

bigger than a blog post, smaller than a breadbox

I haven’t been doing much creative writing lately,

because this:

Fox_sketch-1

 

is coming out in the fall and contrary to what I’d somehow fooled myself into thinking,

my work is only just begun.

More to come lovelies, I promise. all sorts of things are moving and shaking.. a website, a video, events, travel. opportunities for folks to support getting the stories in my book out into the world. For now… disjointed waitress poetry will make an attempt to return, because learning how to market a book gives me a headache, and I need to write creatively again.

 

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in the name of our mothers

With my Mama... 1982

Last year, in honor of my mother, I wrote about the revolutionary roots of Mother’s Day. I invoked the words of Julia Ward Howe, the founder of Mother’s Day, which sound somewhat different than the average Hallmark greeting card.

Arise then, women of this day! Arise, all women who have hearts! Whether your baptism be of water or of tears! Say firmly:

“We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies, Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.  We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”

From the bosom of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with Our own. It says: “Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.” Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession.  As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home, for a great and earnest day of counsel. Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.

Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means Whereby the great human family can live in peace…

In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality, may be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient and the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.

—Julia Ward Howe, 1870

“Mother’s Day wasn’t founded for mothers,” I wrote. “It was founded by them—and with revolution in mind.  Acutely aware of the costs of war, industry, and greed, Julia Ward Howe and like-minded women initiated the first Mother’s Day as a day of activism, a day in which women would stand upon the basic principles of motherhood to demand a more peaceful, just world.  It wasn’t the first time women made such demands, and it would not be the last. Having gone through the pain and joy and struggle and exhilaration and labor of bringing children into the world and raising them to be caring, responsible, creative, moral members of society, many women have historically found it difficult to stomach the wars and social forces which then twisted the bodies and minds of their children—and the “enemy” children of other mothers—in the interests of ideology and profit.”

These words ring truer than ever for me this year. On some still-unknown day in the next seven weeks, I will bring a child into this world, becoming a mother myself.  My mother is becoming a grandmother. My grandmother is becoming a great-grandmother.  The lineage is deepening, and so too is my commitment to working for peace.

But today, on this particular mother’s day, my feminism, my activism, my hell-raising looks different.  As Ani DiFranco reflected a few years ago:

I find it metaphorically resonant that a pregnant woman looks like she’s just sitting on the couch, but she’s actually exhausting herself constructing a human being.  The laborious process of growing a human is analogous to how women’s work is seen… much of women’s work just makes the world quietly turn.

The past week has been filled with ups and downs and ups, and I finished it off by pulling three waitressing shifts in a row, which is a bit of a challenge on this end of the pregnancy.  No matter how well I sleep, I tend to wake up tired these days.  So, on this mother’s day, I practiced peace close to home and did small things, in honor of mothers.

I filled and hung a birdfeeder; in honor of Annie, the mother who raised six children in this house, and loved birds; in honor of my mother in law, Mary Jane, who gave me the birdfeeder some time ago; and in honor of my mother, Theresa, who has made her backyard into a veritable songbird sanctuary over the years.   As I hung the feeder from the wisteria vine, I heard the insistent, high-pitched chirping of baby birds, and realized that one of Annie’s old birdhouses is hosting a family.  Here’s hoping that bird mama realizes she can stay a little closer to home to feed the wee ones.

birdfeeders

I took a small walk in the Bigleaf Maple forest near our house, with my husband and our dog. The sunlight filtered down through the green canopy, and the forest floor was warm and earthy-smelling.

Back home, Ryan set to work constructing my mother’s day present: four giant raised beds for our vegetable garden.  He’s been mapping the pattern of the sunlight in the yard for weeks, and last week he staked out mesh to block weeds and grass from making their way up into the gardens.  Last night, he and our friend Ross picked up lumber and hammered together the first bed, and this afternoon he finished the final three.

I moved our three trays of vegetable starts out of the laundry room and into the sunshine, and sat at our picnic table starting seeds. Pattypan squash, three kinds of basil, kentucky wonder pole beans, cilantro and cucumbers.  Sorted through the rest of my seeds and lined up the packets I’ll direct seed once we’ve hauled in dirt for the garden beds.  Three kinds of carrots, beets, lettuce greens and sugar snap peas… more to come, I’m sure, just haven’t thought of them yet.  I know of few things more peaceful than growing food by hand, at home, and I can think of few ways more appropriate to honor the woman who raised me.

Seeds and herbs.

in my Mama's garden, 1982

After I finished the seeds, I sat in the sun and pulled my shirt up over my belly to let the sun warm the baby, and called my good friend Nora, who’s also pregnant, and expecting in a few weeks.  We swapped pregnancy stories and laughed, talked over things like last names and placentas, made plans to visit soon.

As the sun arced out of the yard and the day began slipping into early evening, I wandered inside and sat down at the computer. Made a donation to FINCA international in honor of my mother, my grandmother, and Ryan’s mom.  Thought about the small, humble ways we can create peace in our everyday lives, peace which inevitably overflows into the lives of those who we cross paths with.  Maybe next year Callum and I will call up Grandma and find a protest to rally at.  But this year, we’re celebrating peace quietly, in the name of our mothers.

To my mama-san, Theresa, my grandmother, Marian, my mother-in-law, Mary Jane, and in honor of my Nana, Frances and all the other women worldwide who are loving and struggling and prevailing as they try to raise their children in a peaceful world…  Happy mother’s day, and thank you.

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Filed under Change, Civil Disobedience, community, Family, Garden, History, Hope, love, memory, Mothers, Peace, Pregnancy

Obama can’t save America. But maybe America can.

First: let me say this. I am not a complete cynic.
Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours” was a beautiful song to begin with. When I hear it now, it brings to my mind, instantly, the sight of thousands on their feet, tears running down their cheeks and proud, exhilarated smiles on their faces, Americans surrounding a young mixed-race man from a “broken home” who made this country deliver on the Dream. He rose to what may have seemed an insurmountable challenge, he spoke words that inspired Ordinary People to believe they could take on the powers that be. And They Can.
Si Se Puede.
He ran a strong campaign. He showed my generation what it feels like to be inspired by a speechmaker. We haven’t had much of that. He respects knowledge, he thinks critically, he has courage and a sense of history. He understands that being a patriot runs deeper than flag pins.
But he can’t save us; neither can hope.
“Hope keeps us chained to the system, the conglomerate of people and ideas and ideals that is causing the destruction of the Earth… When you give up on hope, you turn away from fear. And when you quit relying on hope, and instead begin to protect the people, things, and places you love, you become very dangerous indeed to those in power.”
-Derrick Jensen

It has been a week since America voted Barack Obama in as the next President of our United States. We watched the results come in with friends last tuesday night, eating vegan “Americana” potluck [Black Bean Burgers, Fried “Chicken” (cauliflower), cornbread and tater tots and chipoltle aioli… recipes to follow later]. For months, Ryan has predicted Obama would win in a landslide, even when the pundits and the nervous progressives got caught up in the electioneering. I often thought he was right, but put little faith in my country’s electoral system, which the past eight years (not to mention past three hundred) have revealed as something of a sham, blatantly rigged for the preservation of elite rule. A few weeks before the election, I watched an interview with Noam Chomsky. He agreed with George Will (something that I doubt happens too often) that American electoral politics is more about choosing which elite we want to rule us, than whether or not the elites shall rule.
If you live in a swing state, Chomsky said, vote Obama, but without illusions.

Even though pollsters claimed Washington wasn’t considered a swing state, pollsters were also suggesting conservative sleazebag Dino Rossi might actually triumph in the gubernatorial race. Staring at my absentee ballot, I thought about fear, idealism, and the American way. Who do I really want running my country right now? Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente. Some might say my vote for Obama was a vote cast in fear. I believe it was a vote cast without illusions.

I shed a few tears as Obama gave his acceptance speech. I was relieved, and moved.
I honor the significance of the United State of America choosing a former community organizer, a young man, a dark-skinned man, to lead us. I believe he’s a man of integrity and vision. And, while I respect Derrick Jensen’s take on hope, I haven’t given up on that sticky emotion yet. I am hopeful.

But I woke up the morning after the election feeling hollow, and weirdly, not proud. It made me uncomfortable, and I have been trying to sort out this feeling ever since. The election of Barack Obama is a milestone, yes. But it is only one kind of Change. And it is late in coming. And just because it has come does not absolve us for our collective sin. My America has shed the blood of hundreds of thousands since I turned 21. My America has spit on habeus corpus, tortured, lied, profited, desecrated holy books, cast our own people into the streets, starving and bereft of basic health care. My America has made its daughters in South Dakota criminals for demanding the right to control their own bodies. My America has deported legal citizens without so much as a by your leave. There is so much we must make right—and so many things we can never atone for.
The change we think we’ve created by electing Barack Obama is the kind of change this country should have demanded in November of 2000, when it was clear that George W. Bush had not actually won the presidency legitimately. It is the kind of change we should have demanded in November of 2001, when it was clear that George W. Bush’s administration was bent on exploiting the September 11 carnage to precipitate war-for-profit. It is the kind of change we should have demanded in November of 2002. And 2003.

And then we “re-elected” him.

???????

it took us SEVEN years to rescind the Bush doctrine?
I woke up the day after the election feeling embarrassed.

I love my country. I love its stories, I love its landscapes, I love some of its ideals, I love so many of its people. We have potential! But we also have genocide, slavery, internment, the dubious legacy of being the only nation to use the atomic bomb against another country. We shut out Jews trying to flee the repression that would become the Holocaust. We have Vietnam, Iran-Contra, inaction during the Rwandan genocide. But that’s the past, people say. Get over it. We freed the slaves, didn’t we?

The past isn’t just some mythic territory, some two-dimensional timeline people’d by the Who’s who. Its the sum total of who we have become. America’s promise is just that: a promise. We have to hold ourselves accountable. We were never “the Greatest Country on Earth,” and electing Obama won’t restore us to that mythical condition. The only way forward, the only sustainable way, now, is True Change. Which means something different to everyone. Won’t be easy, but it won’t happen if all we do is complain and talk about H-O-P-E.
A few nights ago, Ryan and I walked with Assata through our quiet neighborhood. The air was warm with the promise of rain, and the lights across the Salish Sea [Puget Sound] reflected on still water. We passed a dozen Obama signs still displayed in the dark yards, plastered with wet maple leaves. I wondered what the owners of those signs thought about leaving them out. Are they victory decorations now? Seattle Lawn Hope Art? A few days ago, one of the Seattle papers noted that flag sales were skyrocketing, that people who’d never before displayed the stars and stripes were doing so now. It makes me uncomfortable. Those colors still fly over Guantanamo Bay. Just because Obama promised us change doesn’t mean we get it.
A few months ago, Naomi Klein noted: “The campaign’s most radical demand is the idea of electing Obama himself. It is Obama–and not his plans for the presidency–that is the ultimate expression of the “movement.” If the process ends there, the Obama campaign will become more like the “lifestyle” brands– the Nikes and Starbucks that captured the transcendent quality of past liberation movements, and our desire for meaning in our lives, to build their own brands.”
What happens in six months when no one has universal healthcare? When American soldiers and Iraqi children are still dying in the streets of Baghdad? When another million Americans are out of work and the polar ice cap has shrivelled that much further into itself? Will we retreat again into our cynicism and our televisions and our despair?

I voted for Obama without illusions. On his own, he will be able to change very little—except, hopefully, our standing in the eyes of other peoples around the world.

But the change? That won’t come from him.
We are the ones we have been waiting for.

If the American people stand up and Demand the kind of Change they have been claiming they want, Demand it instead of waiting for Obama to deliver it to them, Demand it,
Create it themselves,
we might just have a chance.

The time for a Great Mass Movement is Only Just Begun.

I am a student of American History.
Which means I am cynical.
And hopeful.

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Filed under Americana, Atomic Bomb, Barack Obama, Change, Chomsky, Cynthia McKinney, Derrick Jensen, Election, History, Hope, Naomi Klein