So… Time magazine awarded their “Person of the Year” title to “The Protestor.” How nice, though I would take anything they give with a grain of salt. No. 4 on Time’s list, for example, was Rep. Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican whom the magazine credits with bringing to the front of the national consciousness an issue that Washington was loath to confront: America’s ballooning national debt.
FUCK you, Time, but thanks anyway. If it were up to me, I would’ve voted for the almost 40 percent of American children who are now homeless.
Standing for equality and a just society is hard work. In fact, it’s not only hard, but oftentimes not every rewarding. It certainly isn’t rewarding in the economic sense, that’s for sure. I will very likely die before I see a country where children won’t starve needlessly, for example. I probably will not live to see an economic system that works for the majority of the people and not the few.
I might not even live to see meaningful electoral reform, or elections that aren’t won or lost by how much money a candidate can amass from the richest 1%.
Shit, I probably won’t live to see a time where we will all get together as a nation and have a realheart-to-heart on race and inequality. But yet, these are some of the things I stand for too long, whenever I stood up, there weren’t too many of you having my back. Until this year, in fact, people like me operated in silos — disconnected from one another, doing impossible work with little resources and only our passionate reason to sustain us.People often ask me, “Why?” They ask me why I bother, even knowing all of the above. And when they ask, I tell them the following true story:
I was once marching in DC with tens of thousands of other protestors and on that particular day, I really wasn’t feeling it. I was tired. And what I mean by tired, was a bone-weary fatigue that was physical, psychological, and spiritual. I was there, marching and seriously reconsidering the whole mess. What’s the use, I thought to myself. We’ll protest and tomorrow things will go back to normal. And the people who should be out here with pitchforks and torches will be watching TV or some such nonsense.
It was at this time that I turned to an elderly lady who had made the trip with us that day. She was well-known in her community, having been an elementary school teacher for decades. She was, like, everybody’s teacher, a universal mother archetype. And there she was walking with the help of a cane — a woman I knew had marched in countless protests, from the Civil Rights movements of the late 50s on.
She stopped, turned to me and said, “If you’re a Latino or an African American, it’s very likely that you have an ancestor who fought for freedom and died fighting though they knew they would never see the light of a free day in their lifetime. You probably have a woman in your lineage who fought against violence against women and for the right of a woman to be treated as human being although she probably paid a great price for that struggle and she did so probably knowing in her heart, that she would ever see the day where women would be treated with respect and as equals.”
“You probably have an ancestor somewhere in your background that got his head busted in by strike breakers for fighting for a fair day’s work and the right to bargain collectively. In fact, you probably have a long line of ancestors who fought for social justice and freedom though they knew their world would never be like that.”
“And you know why they fought? They fought so that you and I could live in a better and more just world and because not fighting meant that they would be a player to condemning their children to live enslaved. So when you march today, remember that you honor the sacrifices of those who walked before us. When you march today, remember that you are passing that honorable legacy to the children who come after us.”
Then she took my face in her old, gnarled hands and said, “Even if we never accomplish anything, Eddie, what matters is that we fought and struggled and stood for something, because the ripples of our actions today will reverberate and find seed in the hearts of the children where it will flower as freedom, or a yearning for freedom. It doesn’t matter if these clowns don’t change. What matters is what you stand for. Anything less is slavery.”
Since that day, I have never questioned my mission for social justice and whenever I get tired, I remember my teacher and her plea to honor my ancestors.
My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization