No justice, no peace

So, yeah. That was an angry post yesterday.

Later, I decided that writing an angry post with a few links in it was not the best thing I could do. I decided that the best thing I could do was get some skin in the game, literally.

I joined thousands yesterday in the Portland streets. I’m not a big protest kind of person. Chanting in crowds always makes me uneasy. (Too many cautionary Hitler films in my youth, perhaps.) But I thought it was important for my body to be counted.

I also wanted to know, first hand, what was happening at the protests. Early on in the Trump regime, I stopped going to protests. Like I said, I’m not a big crowd person. I find it hard to get caught up in what’s happening. More importantly, they felt ineffective–more like a parade than a protest (as my daughter would say). I could identify no real objective, other than to voice objection, which felt like screaming into a canyon.

Unlike the first Women’s March, in which white women were taking selfies with police, pink hats all around, yesterday’s march had no feeling of parade or celebration. It was not for show or for shots of liberal feel-good.

The crowd skewed young and angry. It was tense. It was also, as much as anything can be when you are faced with police in riot gear, tear gas at the ready, peaceful.

As was the case yesterday, I find myself without much to say. I don’t really think this is a moment for voices such as mine.

I marched at the protest with my daughter, surrounded by people her age. I thought about the world I thought I was bringing her into–what I thought I was giving her–and I wondered what the parents of all the others there had thought they were giving their children. I want to tell you how it broke my heart a little, to see these people taking action to try to make the world be more like the one I (wrongly) thought we once had, to see their anger and frustration and courage and hope. But my broken heart is not the important thing here, and my tiny heartbreak is nothing in comparison to that of the parents who have lost their children at the hands (or knees or bullets) of police, or those who worry that they will.

Last week a journalist claimed that America is a tinderbox. Last night, in a peaceful protest in a town known for its liberalism, I could feel it–people brittle as leaves and sticks on the forest floor after a summer of drought. Our youth–all of our youth, not just those privileged by social class and race–need real hope for something like the kind of future I took for granted when I was their age, and they need it in the form of action, not empty words and gestures without substance. They need more than police taking a knee one minute and then rising up to throw teargas and shoot rubber bullets the next. They need relief from corrupt leaders, inept government, gross income inequality, a trashed economy, crushing debt, racist systems, and a dying planet.

We all need that for them, too. As activist Lilla Watson once said,

“If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. If you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

A lit fire can be hard to contain, and people who feel they have little or nothing to lose are going to be quick to reach for matches.

We all have more to lose than we realize, I think.

4 thoughts on “No justice, no peace

  1. Kate says:

    I’m glad you and Grace has a chance to march. I know a few people who protested in Minneapolis (it’s not terribly far from where we live) but I’m not in a boots on the ground place with coronavirus and kids. I’m grateful for others who are there.

    I don’t know what else to say really…

    • Rita says:

      Oh, I don’t think everyone should be boots on the ground. I haven’t returned, but am grateful for the thousands who have. I’m supporting by supporting those who are. I haven’t been putting out a lot of words of my own. Have been listening more than speaking the past week.

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