succumbing to peer pressure

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Happy 159th Anniversary!

On July 14, 1848, this announcement appeared in the Seneca County Courier:


"A Convention to discuss the social, civil and religious condition and rights of woman, will be held in the Wesleyan Chapel, at Seneca Falls, N.Y., on Wednesday and Thursday, the 19th and 20th of July, current; commencing at 10 o'clock, A.M."

During the first day the meeting will be exclusively for women, who are earnestly invited to attend. The public generally are invited to be present on the second day, when Lucretia Mott of Philadelphia, and others, ladies and gentlemen will address the convention."

And five days later (159 years ago today) the Seneca Falls Convention was held, "to discuss the social, civil, and religious condition and rights of woman." Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote up the Declaration of Sentiments, modeled after the Declaration of Independence, and listed "eighteen 'injuries and usurpations' -the same number of charges leveled against the King of England-'on the part of man toward woman.'"

Seventy two years later women finally won the legal right to vote.

Sometimes it only seems like things are getting worse. Change takes time. More time than it should, but we've had lots of practice being patient.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Ech. Sorry I've been MIA. I spent a little too much time in my own head, then rebounded by avoiding all introspective activities. Anyway. Final closing thoughts on the USSF:

Everything is different, when you have money vs. when you don't.
In my neighborhood you see parents pushing strollers all the time. Strollers with mosquito netting, with little sunshades, kids bundled up against rain and wind, every element you could possibly think of. Walking back to the civic center from downtown I saw two young black men pushing a sleeping child in a very simple stroller. It was above 90 degrees out, and the mid-afternoon sun was broiling. Kid was just sort of lolling sleepily side to side, no shade, no netting. I'm not saying these were irresponsible guardians or anything (I think a lot of kid stuff is overkill) just that it was a moment that really made clear how every single detail of your life is affected by class. And how much we take for granted.

The young men stuck with me too because for several blocks I tried to tease out their relationship to each other. They both looked to be in their late teens or early twenties, and each had one hand on the stroller, walking down the street with the ease of familiarity. So they could have been brothers. But then why each push the stroller simultaneously? There was an intimacy to it. Were they the rarest of individuals - an out black couple?

Can't we all just get along?
One of the things that I love about our movement, but which I have to confess also dampens our effectiveness, is our 'big tent-ness.' Everyone is welcome here, and we aren't going to force you to toe some party line. Every workshop I attended, and every planning meeting I went to before the forum even started, began with a plea for compassion and understanding and open-mindedness to someone else's position and respect for a differing opinion. Forgive me if I can't imagine that happening in a conservative movement. I've only been to a few of those types of meetings, and they usually start with a prayer. And, in my limited experience, not one with the 'love thy neighbor' theme.

It's all about me
Nearly a decade ago I was in an attempted car-jacking. Probably everyone reading this is sick of the story. But I just can't seem to get over it. The forum was held on the edges of a sketchy area of town (for good reason - the poor and homeless were an integral part of what we were trying to do) and the progressive in me can't stop being judgemental of my own fear, but I also can't stop being afraid. But the week was like a nice form of immersion therapy - I smiled and made eye contact and talked to everyone - forum attendees, homeless, mentally ill, lost visitors, lost locals, young, old. I walked through neighborhoods that typically make me nervous, and repeated Punam's mantra - you can't walk scared. I've already reverted back to my old habits, but it was nice, for a few days, to reconcile my social beliefs with my personal feelings.

When did I become a radical?
Back when we lived together, AWB and I used to have some pretty intense social/political discussions. Mostly revolving around my support for Kerry and hers for Nader. I remember the moment when I finally understood the root of our disagreement - she used the word revolution to describe what she believed needed to happen. Although part of me believed that too, I scoffed at the idea of actually advocating such radical action in today's society.

On my more pragmatic days I still don't really believe it's a viable plan of action. But just like my alternating choices to push reform from within a system vs. outside, I realize now that sometimes I do jump on the revolution bandwagon, because a) many of my (unchanged) values have suddenly been moved, contextually, to the radical end of the spectrum and b) sometimes you have to ask for a mile to get an inch. During one of the workshops someone suggested "Dismantling the empire" as a goal. We all sort of chuckled, but five years ago I wouldn't have even ended up in that room. Suddenly linking the (to me obviously related) ideas of peace and social justice and health and equality is radical.

And that was really the name of the game for the forum. Thinking big, big enough to get anti-war activists and tax reform activists and homeless advocates all on the same page, all pushing for the same goals. Because that's how it's going to work - not with each of us working in isolation to paste bandaids on specific cracks. Maybe tomorrow I'll go back to being cynical. but today I'm enjoying the sense that the forum really did make a difference. That it did bring together the right people, fostered the right relationships, and that the years to come will be good ones.