Sunday, January 22, 2017

Love, not hate, makes America great

I was born the year after Rosa Parks took her bus seat in history. My first birthday came just a week or so after Little Rock Central High School was desegregated. Nonviolent protest was a common topic among my parents and their friends. At the Ethical Society, where my family went for Sunday discussions with like minded individuals, we children learned a hymn to humanism, which included a paraphrase of Felix Adler's words: "This place we meet to seek the highest is holy ground." Before I turned three, as the Civil Rights Movement gained strength, I have a clear memory of asking my father what race were we. My father paused from his reading, and pondered a moment. My dad, who had eyebrows that rivaled John L. Lewis, ran his fingers through that forest as he did when he was in deep thought. He sighed, and then nodded his head, signifying agreement to some unspoken idea. Then he told me I was of the Human Race and to never forget that. The Human Race. Others might try and break that down, try to belittle one part of the Human Race or another based on beliefs, or color, or sex, or ability, but that was a ploy to something unworthy. We are all part of the same thing.

That was the lesson seared into my soul. I grew up in times of turbulence, but diversity was always championed. When the riots broke out after Martin Luther King's assassination, an African American friend came to our home just over the DC line, to check on my mother (who was experiencing the first debilitating and disorientating symptoms of what was later diagnosed as Multiple Sclerosis). She knew my mother usually went grocery shopping on that day, and didn't want Mama to have to be out in the uncertainty that was our city. I asked our friend why people were being violent, because hadn't Dr King believed in nonviolence? "Violence begets violence; hatred begets hatred", she said. "But kindness begets kindness. Your mama and daddy did me kindness at the darkest time of my life. We are all family."

The mothers and grandmothers in my neighborhood all were early activists in the Women's Rights Movement. Many remembered when women got the right to vote (my mother was born the year after, but told me how her own mother would tell of her first time voting as an American, and how my grandmother never missed a chance to vote until the year she died, and only then because she died before the election.) Family  appointments and community happenings were written onto the  League of Women's Voters calendars that adorned every home in the neighborhood. And as I grew from girlhood into my late teens and twenties, Women's Rights and Women's Health became the causes I, too, fought for (though, in fairness, my first protest was against the Vietnam War in the 60's, and I remain  peace advocate. To this day, I respect and honor our military for their service, but pray for the end of the wars and fighting that plague our world.)

Yesterday, the most extraordinary thing happened. People all over the world, on all continents, got together and raised their voices in unity with those who joined the Women's March on Washington.  Though the agenda varied somewhat from activist to activist, all had something to say. I spoke for Human Rights, and for Kindness, for those early lessons run deep. I felt strongly I wanted to stand for something rather than against something.  Yes, there are many things in this world that make me angry, negative, upset, or fearful, but I choose hope. I choose kindness. I believe in the goodness of Humankind. And while technically, because of my health, I could not march,  the Charleston Women's March went right by my window I could watch, wave the signs I'd hand lettered, and give my support. I could rejoice that family, both far flung and near, were able to join in as they chose and speak to support what they hold to be inalienable rights; to breathe life into liberty and equality, with dignity, nonviolence, humor, passion, and yes, kindness.

I've thought about this a great deal, because there are people whose friendships I cherish that didn't see the purpose of yesterday's activism. One person even told me that she could make her own choices about her life, her health, her body, so she didn't see why she should march, or why others even needed to. But she also is too young to remember the days when women's bodies were not our own, when we couldn't choose for ourselves about ourselves,  choose who to love, or any one of a myriad of other issues.

I realized that those who marched, marched for our own beliefs and also for those who disagreed with the protest. We marched to uphold our rights and also their rights, their choice, their expression of belief, even if it contradicted our own.  We marched from all segments of society, the rich, the famous, the just plain regular folks, and those less fortunate. We marched, different colors, genders, education, occupation. We marched to uphold Human Rights. And for the ability to do that, I give thanks. The cadence of yesterday's marchers will ring in my heart and in my head. The words shared I believe, from those early days where I learned the value of kindness, through the dark days after the shootings at Mother Emanuel AME, where l saw the visible demonstration of the strength of love here in my town. Love, not hate, makes America great.
Flow Chart I made to help get it all straight in my head


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks, Sam. And thanks for going up to DC, though we had a blast here in Charleston!