The Aristocracy of Rebellion

Hola mi gente,
I have to say that one of the consequences of being unemployed is the tremendous amount of stress. Stress kills and right now, I’m at the tipping point. This in spite of the fact that I meditate on a daily basis, am vigilant regarding the few principles I do value (so as not to add to the mess), and try to maintain an awareness of my frame of mind. Not working just saps me of energy.

It also impacts my passion, which in turn impacts my writing. For better or worse, in order for me to be an effective writer, I have to be feeling it. Stress just kills it for me. For example, I have an unfinished piece on Hillary Clinton’s email transgressions and I don’t have the energy to shape it up… Instead, I was feeling the following.

Why I Fight

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Seattle activist, Dorli Rainey, reacts after being hit with pepper spray during a protest.

 

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. But, as Alice Walker said, “Activism is my rent for living on the planet.”

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 real heart-to-heart on race and inequality. But yet, these are some of the things that I have stood for — for a long time. Oftentimes with little support. Until very recently, in fact, people like me operated in silos — disconnected from one another, doing impossible work with little resources and only reasoned passion to sustain us.

When people ask me why I bother to fight, I tell them the following true story. The thing is, as powerful as the story is, I almost forgot it. So I write this down so I will never forget. I write it down to honor the fact that I am part of a long and storied lineage of resistance and rebellion. I write it down so you can put it in your heart:

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 reality 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 marching with the help of a walker — a woman that I knew that had marched in countless protests, from the Civil Rights movements of the late 50s on.

So I turned to her and expressed my doubt. I questioned the validity of protest and dissent. I expressed my uncertainties, my frustrations, and feelings of impotence. “Why do all this, Mrs. Mrs. Robinson. It doesn’t make a difference.”

She stopped, turned to me and said, “If you’re a Latino it’s very likely that you have an ancestor who fought for freedom and died fighting knowing they would never see the light of a free day in their lifetime. Then she turned to a young woman standing next to me and said, “You probably Have a woman in your past who fought against violence against women and for the right to vote and for women to be treated as equals 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.”

She turned to a young white man and said, her soft voice tremulous with a fiery spirituality, “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. Then addressing what was now becoming a small crowd, she said, “In fact, you all 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 because not fighting meant that they would be a party to condemning their children to live enslaved. So when you march today, remember that you are honoring 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…

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