20 January 2017

Be the Revolution. For My Mom

Last weekend, I went to the NYPL to a rally with Writers Resist and PEN America. PEN president Andrew Solomon commented that it has been, in the past, PEN's mission to protest restrictions on freedom of speech in other countries, that it's shocking that they're now working on that issue in the US. "We must pledge to remain shocked," he said.

Robert Pinsky read a poem written for the occasion, beginning "We choose our ancestors," and quoting from writers who fought for freedom. Michael Cunningham read from Ursula K. LeGuin's novel, The Dispossessed: "You can not buy the Revolution. You can not make the Revolution. You can only be the Revolution."

We now have a new president. I'll be back on the streets tomorrow, marching from the UN to Trump Tower via 42nd Street and Grand Central, where people can go in and warm up. (Want to join in? Sign up here, information here.) I will march to protest the new regime's position on gay rights, women's rights, health care, climate change, voting rights, police violence, refugees ... pretty much the entire platform.

Last week, The Mate was worried about me going off to protest. This despite the fact that I marched often in the 80s, taking the bus from Philadelphia and, later, New York to Washington DC with the National Organization for Women. He joined me often enough.

Frankly, I was worried too. I now need twice-daily medication, I'm a parent, I'm just older and a little more fragile that I was 30 years ago.

Mate said, "This is your mother's fault."

And he's right, it is her fault. She was born in East Prussia in 1939, fled west with her pregnant mother and two younger siblings in late 1944, lived for a while in a refugee camp. Her father fought for the Germans in WWII. Some day I'll go into the archives and find out what he really did -- the stories vary. He died, according to one of the stories, from a sniper bullet on an otherwise quiet day in 1945.

She couldn't choose her ancestors. I can't choose mine. She gives time and money to libraries and schools, in her community in New Hampshire as well as in other countries. She's active in politics and conservation causes. And she raised me to speak up and speak out against injustice, anywhere, all the time.

She'll be marching tomorrow in New Hampshire, all 78 years and 115 pounds of her, feisty and unstoppable. I will march tomorrow in NYC. This one's for you, mom.