“You’re either part of the solution or you’re part of the problem,” Eldridge Cleaver. This is one of the most memorable quotes from my time in college. When I went off to Arizona State from the town of Union, I not only swapped physical climates, but social and political ones as well. In addition to losing 17 pounds in a couple of weeks (dry heat), I was suddenly immersed in a completely new world. There were Mormons everywhere, the two freshmen a few doors down were Hopi and Navajo, and my first friend, aside from my roommate, was from Columbia in South America. I’d gone from a graduating class of 38 to a university with 29,000 students.
We hadn’t spent much time studying the Vietnam War in high school and I didn’t have strong feelings either way when I arrived in Tempe. That changed during my second semester. We were assigned an original research paper and for reasons that escape me today, I chose to research the economics of the air war over North Vietnam. The deeper I dug, the more troubled I became. We were not only pouring an enormous amount of money into bombing that country, we were also defoliating large areas of forest land, with little or no concern for the people living there. We now know just how nasty Agent Orange was, not only for the Vietnamese, but for untold numbers of our own troops.
When I handed in the paper, I also knew where I stood, firmly opposed to the war, not those who had been sent there, but opposed to elected officials and high brass who lied about what was happening and why we were there. I found others on campus, including faculty members who shared my opposition. That led to demonstrations, my running for the student senate, and guerrilla theater on campus. (I can still see the faces of some sorority girls when we did a fake ambush with simulated blood and Feel Like I’m Fixing to Die Rag, blaring from a speaker hidden in a hedge.) It also resulted in the infamous hopping of freights to San Francisco for the Easter Sunday antiwar march.
There were aspects of the antiwar movement that affected other family members. Mom understood where I was coming from, but my father, mostly due to the fact that we seemed to address the war when both of us were intoxicated, was largely negative and abusive. Even so, a double sheet from the Socialist Worker newspaper hung in our family dining room for many years. It featured a photo of Richard Nixon with “Would You Buy A Used War From This Man?” under it.
Fast forward to 2016. I’d voted in every election since turning 21, but my involvement with social action and politics wasn’t what you would describe as active, aside from working with Beth to be good role models for our daughters. That often involved listening to them talk about issues while they sorted out how they felt. I’m glad to say it worked. Both Sara and Lisa are involved in social justice, aren’t afraid to speak out when they see or hear something counter to their values, and work in jobs that are involved in making life better for others.
Meanwhile, I was getting more and more uneasy with what was happening in Augusta and Washington. I was a Bernie delegate to the 2016 State Democratic Convention and, even though I felt the national DNC screwed Bernie, I voted for Hilary. Those who follow the blog know I ran for the Maine House of Representatives in 2018 a I had a real flashback moment during my door knocking when I pulled into a driveway and saw a man with two fingers missing, holding a rifle. We had a most interesting conversation. He was an Agent Orange survivor and had endured 106 operations, mostly for recurring tumors.
After losing the house race, I realized I wasn’t going to run again. Then we moved to a friendlier area politically. Here’s what I’m doing this time around. First, I’ve been contributing monthly to ActBlue and Emily’s List. I’m firmly convinced the more women we elect to political office AT ANY LEVEL, the better our future will be and Emily’s List does that better than any other organization. I’m also hoping to be a Bernie delegate to this year’s state convention. I have also volunteered (did my first shift yesterday morning) to work on the State Democratic hot line. This has been established to help voters in Maine get answers to questions, things like where do I vote, what time do the polls in my town open and close, etc. Here’s a link to the page so those who are interested in what’s there can see and bookmark as needed. https://www.voteinmaine.com/
After the March 3rd primary, I will continue to be a hotline volunteer and will also offer my services as a driver for local candidates when they go out knocking on doors. Stay tuned for more about this years election adventures. What are you doing to make the world better for our children and grandchildren?