Saturday, March 10, 2012

Why Now - Kati

When I was a young girl in the 70's and 80's, you taught me that my mind is just as strong as my brothers' minds. Through athletic opportunities, provided by Title IX, I developed a strong sense of my value as a member of a team. Throughout my childhood and early adult life when somebody broke me down others stepped in and built me back stronger.

Today all of the gifts I have received combine with a drive to embrace the inherent wisdom I am developing as a mother (link to the why mothers post) and I am wide-eyed, looking around, and getting very, very upset.

I have to put a special thank you to two public figures whose words, both positive and negative, created the perfect tinder for this fire.

First, it was Leymah Gbowee (pronounced: lee*ma bow*ee) who planted the seed and if you do not already know her story you should seek the details. In a nutshell, she worked with women in Liberia to speak loudly through peaceful protest. They used every bit of influence they had (including withholding sex from their men) to end a war and turn around their country. In her own words, "all we did was create the space. When you create commitment, you unlock, intelligence, passion, commitment, focus, great leaders.” The space she created sparked a revolution, ended a war, and empowered women.

Image from Facebook page for Leymah Gbowee

I happened to catch a TV interview of her a few weeks back and was riveted by something she said. When talking about how the women of Liberia made a national change she said that, to paraphrase, given the state of affairs in America, I am surprised your women and children are not doing the same. It was funny, but not funny. The host and the audience chuckled, but it was a head shaking, "no kidding," sort of chuckle. And it imprinted onto my heart.

The second person I need to thank is Rush Limbaugh. When he labeled Sandra Fluke a "slut" and called for her and her friends to post sex videos online I had to pick my jaw back up off the floor. How is it that public discourse, supposedly political in nature, had gotten so far off the topic as to become a personal attack. My heart has gone out to Ms. Fluke and her parents (I cannot IMAGINE listening to that about my daughter).

I am left with a sense of growing disdain for "leaders" in any political party who can listen to such misogynistic vitriol, followed by an exceptionally transparent and pathetic apology, and not denounce it entirely. In particular, I have yet to see a Republican leader in any major position of power (or running for any major position of power) publicly denounce it in a way that shows me they understand that an attack on one woman in this manner undermines equality for all women.

So those are the two people that created the tinder and the match was struck when I went to the first protest in my life last Saturday.

Yes, the protestors were warned of a pending arrest. Loud, verbal assertions of the First Amendment were made so I assume many of them were remaining on the steps believing they had a Constitutional right to freedom of assembly. Especially because they were not threatening any actions, just gathered together with some chanting and raucous hollering.

Yes, the police officers gave them a warning and began the arrests. The SWAT team and "tactical unit" was definitely over the top.

Perhaps if I had been to other protests I would have understood that this was just the way it was "supposed to" play out. But as a newbie who enjoyed government courses in high school and college I was appalled. I don't care *WHAT* state law you have on the books about the Capitol grounds, it is trumped by the First Amendment. I support a police presence but when dissenters are peacefully dissenting it is supposed to be tolerated. I personally would have even been totally fine with a large SWAT team out of sight as a contingency plan, but the people of our country are not to be intimidated when they are doing nothing wrong. We are the land of the free and the brave, remember?

So five days later around 80 mothers and children reclaimed those same steps with a picnic-in. We taught our children, mostly preschoolers, about civil disobedience. And we will keep going back there. Partly to teach the children civics lessons and to stand up for what they believe in. Partly to raise awareness of the issues crippling our country. Partly to point out the ridiculousness of an unconstitutional law. But MOSTLY to show everyone watching that we can begin a dialogue another way. We can invite the wives, children, and grandchildren of the police officers to join us. We can invite the wives, children, and grandchildren of our Senators and Representatives to join us. We can invite our neighbors and friends to join us.

The time has come for the mothers to demand more of our leaders. The rhetoric has a tone that we would scold our children for using and words that are so disgusting I cannot believe they are allowed. Tough love when you need it, a hug when you need it, and teachable moments as they arise. More than a national swear jar, we need a national hate jar. When you promote hate on the airwaves, you should have to pay a fine. We need a dialogue based on love and respect. Just what we teach our children on the playground. The current state of affairs is not acceptable and someone needs a timeout.

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