And To the Republic For Which She Sits

by Laura Kalpakian

I was part of the Hell No We Won’t Go generation, 1968 when our resistance was focused on forcing the government to end the Vietnam War. We certainly did not invent mass protest, the proverbial petition in boots, but with television, our mass protests spilled into tidy American homes. That was new. In the decades since then, my generation has often been portrayed as comic, tie-dyes, feathers, flowers, stony smiles and peace signs, and our serious efforts antic undertakings. One era’s hard-won conviction is another era’s easy assumption.

And then in January 2017, the notion of a “petition in boots” (as someone smarter than I coined it) took on new meaning. In the weeks since the Women’s March, the impetus—the need, the obligation—for mass protest has become an unrelenting, an almost daily urgency.   I thought such social unrest, such a sense of political emergency as I experienced in my youth would not happen again in my lifetime. But fifty years later, here we are. And by we, I mean not just the graybeards and the grandmothers of 1968, but to quote Elwood of the Blues Brothers: “You. Me. Them.”

As a young person in DC for the 1969 Moratorium March a phalanx of my amigos and I all crashed at a friend’s apartment the night before. With us was the sister of a German friend who was visiting her brother. The morning of the March I was surprised to see her applying foundation makeup, heavily, as if for a party. She must have sensed my prissy disapproval because she tossed me the bottle and said, “Here. You’ll need it. When they gas you, the makeup helps to protect your skin.”

The prospect of gas was never far off. We knew that. As we made our way to the March we walked by government buildings sandbagged against us, prepared for an assault, and National Guardsmen behind those sandbags with rifles and bayonets. A sobering sight. And yet most of the Guardsmen were young people, like us, and several surreptitiously flashed the peace sign.

We were 250,000 strong that day. More than anyone had reckoned on. Certainly more than that pig Nixon had reckoned on, though in calling out the sandbags and the National Guard he knew we were dead serious.   Six months later four protesters were dead. Killed in May, 1970 by the Guard at Kent State and more at Jackson State. Four months later Bobby Seale, a defendant in the Chicago Seven trial, was bound and gagged in the courtroom. At the order of the judge. The Republic stood imperiled, and the rights Americans relied on eroding.

I remember being deep in the crowd the day of the ‘69 Moratorium March, looking up to a platform. Joan Baez sang. Inspiring speakers rallied us. “If Nixon wants to know how to move soldiers peacefully out of ‘Nam,” one guy memorably called out to rousing cheers, “he should ask us!” In fact, aside from brief skirmishes, 250,000 of us did move peacefully into and later out of the city.

However, the image I remember best was wordless. Not far from my cadre of friends a woman had spread a blanket on the grass. She had a couple of little kids with her, a preschooler and a five year old. Other than her children, she was alone, no other adult family members. I was astonished that a mother would bring her little children to a march where there was a threat of violence, of gas, where protesters were surrounded by guys with guns. And yet, she sat there, amid the restless crowd, calmly slathering peanut butter on white bread, handing out sandwiches. The kids sat, cross-legged in front of her, munching, listening. She was an ordinary looking woman, perhaps thirty-five, no outlandish clothes, no feathers or flowers in her hair, no love beads. At odds with the rousing rhetoric, she exuded serenity. Her image seared into memory.

Last month my daughter-in-law took my little grand-daughter to the Women’s March. I was proud of them; I was also glad there was no threat of gas, no armed National Guard. This is not to say there won’t be. Perils lie ahead, of that I am certain. Even so I take heart from the remembered image of that mother at the 1969 Moratorium March. The simplicity of her sitting on the blanket—amid the raucous, impassioned outcry, while the crowd surged and shouted and the National Guard stood armed—calmly handing out sandwiches to her children seemed like an emblem. To me she represented confidence, not simply in the justice of our cause, but confidence in the Republic itself.   That confidence in the republic spurs us now, 2017 to put our boots back on, our petitions into our feet, marching now. You. Me. Them.   In fact, with Elwood and Jake of the Blues Brothers, we might all say, “We’re putting the band back together.”

Author’s Bio: One of the original Founding Mothers of Red Wheelbarrow Writers, Laura Kalpakian was nominated for the prestigious International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award for American Cookery. She won a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a Pushcart Prize, the Pacific Northwest Booksellers’ Award (twice), the Anahid Award for an American writer of Armenian descent, the PEN West Award, and the Stand International Short Fiction Competition. She has had residencies at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Montalvo Center for the Arts, and Hawthornden Castle in Scotland. She is the author of thirteen novels and over a hundred stories published in collections, anthologies, literary journals and magazines in the USA and the UK.

 

Waltzing My Piano

by Jean Waight

An old envelope fell out of the piano bench the other day, and I asked Bill about tossing it out. But its scratch marks held details of his 1989 trip to collect what is now our good, heavy, rather old upright piano. The trip was a December adventure, and a leap of faith, since a piano is a formidable opponent for someone going alone, with a not-good back, the six hundred twenty miles to Redding, California.

The seller wasn’t there at the appointed time. No one had cell phones in those days, and Bill was left to wonder and linger over a long breakfast until, 90 minutes late, the fellow pulled up, having finally made his way through fog-obstructed traffic.

A professional mover, he waved away Bill’s help. Actually asked him to stay out of the way. He had a solid block constructed of layers of sheet plywood, about 15 X 15 inches square and about nine inches high. Onto this block he set the piano on its side, and from there choreographed a dance of tips and pivots. In about five minutes he had the piano down from his truck and into the back of Bill’s rented trailer.

Now, no one is going to confuse a neat, five-minute piano-moving trick with the long slog we face as we do the work of, among other things, defending our open and welcoming society. But what I take from the piano mover is this hope: that when I’m trying to move a seemingly immovable hulk of problems, distrust, and ill-feeling, and I’m straining, that there may be a better way.

One way my piano surely becomes harder to move is if I fail to recognize all my allies in changing the public stories we hear, especially unexpected allies. Often enough I have used the simplified term “The Christian Right.” But this term doesn’t seem as meaningful as I thought before I saw Danny Westneat’s January 29 column (Seattle Times). From his column I learned how distraught the workers have been at Washington state’s largest refugee resettlement program, a charity of a coalition of mostly evangelical churches identifying conservative. They take large exception to the Administration’s assertion that immigrants have been coming in unvetted. And they love the immigrants they’ve been able to help, most definitely including the Muslims. Seeing this gave me goosebumps of joy.

One way my piano may be easier to move is if I can make music as well as generate sweat. We are not just in a historical moment that we can resolve in the near term. While our current crises are a special class of danger and damage, I think we are all recognizing that we’re in the midst of an upheaval that’s already been going on for decades and now shows no signs of resolving into peace in my lifetime, or maybe yours. So why not build our resilience with joys as well as activism? Joyful activism, if we can manage that. Continue to make music. And in writing my lyrics, I’d like to try this: using words like gains and setbacks instead of wins and losses—I think that will send the message to my bones that this effort is going to take endurance. And that my emotional ups and downs can be smoothed by letting go of winning. This isn’t a sport to me, anyway. Nor a war.

The late Hugh Prather once spoke of a growing family whose strength lies in their gentleness and whose message is not so much in their words as in their treatment of others. I hope to carry that thought with me, at least in my better moments, whether I’m pushing or waltzing.

Author’s Bio: 

Jean Waight, formerly with Group Health Cooperative’s Communications and Community Relations department, is a Bellingham writer of memoir, short fiction, and essays. Her work has appeared in the Red Wheelbarrow Writers anthology Memory into Memoir, in “Cirque: A Literary Journal for the North Pacific Rim,” and in the sociological journal, “Research in Social Stratification and Mobility.” More blogposts are on GreenTeaSympathy.blogspot.com.

 

 

On Forgiveness

by Nancy Canyon

Lately I’ve been remembering a saying I learned in the eighties: choose love over fear. To love ourselves and everyone else, no matter the behavior, raises our vibration. It’s natural to attempt to keep the shadow at bay, but doing so increases its power. This doesn’t mean to accept what others do or to not question off-color rhetoric and power abuse, nor does it mean to do nothing about violations of our freedoms or illegal behavior; it just means keep the heart open. No fortified walls. Only love.

While taking an energy healing class once, I complained about my ex and the heartache he’d been putting me through. The teacher said, “What you resist persists.” I wasn’t sure at the time what she actually meant. But I was open to learning. I realized that like most people, behavior I didn’t want I tended to ignore, curse, and deny. I wanted to feel better, to drop my vendetta, and move on.

Carl Jung said, “What you resist not only persistsbut will grow in size.” When my body became ill in my early twenties, I’d heard of Jung, but not his idea. The theory that energy can be blocked, however, wasn’t new to me, as I was a dancer. I began to suspect the fibroids and pending surgery might have been the result of blocked anger. For sixteen years I’d tamped down my rage over the sexual abuse. I couldn’t express myself as the perpetrator had threatened me not to tell. Once I moved away from home, however, I became a stinging hornet. I was dealing with intense feelings and if someone had said, choose love over fear—I would have told him or her where to go.

In my early 30s I began participating in group therapy, making healing art, playing the piano and, of course, dancing. Slowly the anger lifted. I became a better friend to the people I loved. I became a better caretaker of myself. And I practiced forgiveness. But the hurt hadn’t healed enough that I was ready to forgive him.

In my 40s an astrologer said to me, “Forgive, but don’t forget.” That I understand. Each time the perpetrator had asked for forgiveness, I’d denied him. Still, deep inside, I knew I needed to forgive him, if only for my own peace of mind. So I sat down and wrote a letter: “Dear Dad, I forgive you…,” and mailed it.

An amazing thing happened after that. I felt lighter, joyous even. I remember lying in the grass on a sunny day, saying to my friend, “Yes, I forgave him.” She said, “What else could you do?”

Holding onto anger had given me power, but not virtuous power. Letting go of resistance raised me up. I felt healthier and happier. I’d begun the journey away from fear and toward love. I’d set myself free.

What we resist persists and grows larger. If we resist opening our hearts, we block universal energy and the ability to manifest what we want. Holding onto fearful thoughts weakens the immune system. Practicing self-forgiveness returns the body to a state of harmony. Blessing ourselves and others, allows negative energy to flow like Tai Chi, maintaining calmness and a state well-being—and it increases good brain chemicals.

Love will get us through these tense times. Forgiveness will release the energy that builds walls and keeps a fortified stance. Positive thinking will help us manifest what we want in the world.

Additionally, when I hear myself or others gripe about current happenings, I think: What can we do about this? Bless the situation and let it go, and practice imaging what we want to happen instead. We can open our hearts to the “other”. Or, if there’s an action to take, like writing letters or marching, we can sign up.

We now have the opportunity to actualize our freedoms, to walk into the new paradigm with open hearts, to join peacefully like we did during the Women’s March in January. I personally intend to take action. The invitation is to love and forgive yourself and everyone else. Collectively, we will shine our brilliant light, illuminating the darkness.

Author’s bio:

Nancy Canyon’s prose & poetry is published in Raven Chronicles, Hurricane Press, Water~Stone Review, Fourth Genre, Floating Bridge Review, Able Muse, Poetry South, Main Street Rag, Exhibition, Obliquity, Labyrinth, Sue C. Boynton, Clover: A Literary Rag, and more.  Ms. Canyon holds the MFA in Creative Writing from Pacific Lutheran University.  She’s a creative writing instructor for Whatcom Community College and visual artist.  Her eBook “Dark Forest” can be found at Amazon.com.  “Saltwater” a book of poetry, is available for purchased at www.villagebooks.com.  She’s a member of the Morgan Block Studios in Historic Fairhaven, where she paints and writes.  www.nancycanyon.com    

Apathy – The Eighth Deadly Sin

I got my U.S. citizenship the old-fashioned way: I earned it. I filled out reams of forms, listed every address where I’d every slept more than one night, studied hard for the test, and sat for hours in the corridors of the Atlanta Immigration and Naturalization Service offices as my 9 a.m. appointment slouched toward early afternoon. And that was just the culmination of a decades-long process.

I came to the States in 1977 as a dependent on my husband’s intra-company transfer visa, good for a year, renewable for another year. By 1979, we had a second baby and faced the fact that we were no longer a globetrotting couple with a two-year-maximum horizon. We applied for Permanent Residence – a Green Card. We didn’t retain an immigration lawyer – how hard could it be? We were both college-educated native English speakers. Months later, after humiliating medical examinations, and laughable English language competency tests, we found ourselves waiting with burkha-clad women and nervous students for our INS interview. It was the height of the Iran Hostage Crisis, and every Iranian in the U.S. had been called in to verify their immigration status.

I could have jogged along happily with my Green Card for ever, I suppose. Other ex-patriot friends have done that. But I ached to vote! I was always interested in politics. My undergraduate degree is from the London School of Economics, or “the London School of Bloody Commies” as my conservative father was pleased to call it. I door-belled for Harold Wilson in the 1974 election that returned the Labour Party to power in the UK. I marched against the Vietnam War and boycotted South African fruit at our local greengrocers.

So in 1991, I stood proudly with several hundred other new citizens from all over the world in the Atlanta Civic Center and pledged my allegiance to the United States of America. I have voted in every election since. Not just the big ones, the once-every-four-years presidential, but the mid-terms, the primaries, the judicial (I’m still at a loss why state judges are elected not appointed), the school board, the water board, the dog catcher. Yes, I’m a voting junkie, and I do my research. I read the Voter Pamphlet, I go to the League of Women Voters’ candidates’ forum, and I take notice of endorsements.

I don’t expect every citizen to be as gung-ho as I am, but for God’s sake, people, vote!

In the recent presidential election, the turnout was a paltry 54%. Ninety-seven million eligible voters couldn’t be bothered. Couldn’t shift their sorry asses to find out where their polling place was, or, in Washington State where mail-in voting makes it super-easy, lacked the energy or interest to fill in the blanks and wander down to their mail box.

I looked at other places I’ve lived to see if voter apathy is a global phenomenon, and found that US voter turnout is abysmally low by international standards.

In the recent first round of the presidential election in France, 80% of eligible voters cast a ballot: four out of five Frenchmen and women were engaged enough in the democratic process to vote in the equivalent of a primary election. And that was down from the last presidential election in 2007 when turnout was 84%. Belgium saw an even higher rate of voter participation in the most recent national elections: 87%. I was appalled at the results of the recent UK referendum on leaving the European Union, but at least that decision was taken by 72% of the electorate, a slightly higher percentage than had turned out for recent parliamentary elections. (Figures from the Pew Research Center.)

Like many who were disappointed at the November election results, I have progressed through various stages of grief. I can’t say I’ve reached acceptance, but I’m certainly not going to hide under the covers for the next four years. At sixty-seven years old, four years represents a substantial portion of my future. Life is too precious to waste. There are too many wonderful places to go and experiences to savor. I know how privileged I am to be white, wealthy and living in this beautiful Fourth Corner of the USA. However, one thing still keeps me seething with anger: the apathy of Americans who didn’t cast a vote.

“In a democracy, voting is the least we can do.” Gloria Steinem.

Can I get an Amen?

Author’s Bio:  After a career as an employment lawyer, MARIAN EXALL now writes what she loves to read: mysteries! Like her heroine Sarah McKinney, Marian was born and raised in England. She lived in Atlanta for thirty years before moving to Bellingham where she hikes, gardens and does grandparent duty.

www.marianexall.com

Twitter: @mysterymarian

www.facebook.com/mysterymarianexall

 

 

Writers Resist, Blog One: Sean Dwyer Has a Dream

I have an advantage over you right now. I have battled a brain injury for two years, and at times I speculate that I am lying in a dark room in a long-term care facility. I’m in a coma. I have dreamt of a partial recovery, of the support of my friends, of personal growth and self-awareness.

I also have nightmares. I dream that I can’t read, that I can’t write effectively, that I can’t cry. I dream about the nation. Perhaps the last show I watched before my accident was Celebrity Apprentice, because I dream that its pompous, sadistic host has used his only talents, those of showmanship and façade-building, to jump into the presidential race and preach a false gospel of prosperity for the common white man, the sons of the men who upgraded America during the postwar boom and passed on to their children the ideal that hard work leads to a house, a car, and job security.

I dream . . . That these vulnerable people, whose factories and mines shut down over the course of four decades, clung to the desperate hope that a savior would appear and reopen the monoliths that extracted toil from their muscles and gave them money in return. Their desperation now leads them to ignore the many reasons not to embrace this flawed candidate, whose only words that are useful to them resemble “I’ll make life what it once was for you.”

. . . That these people, who once met their own needs but now depend on government assistance because there is no work, resent that the Other also receives assistance without working. Their resentment then grows if a portion of the Other goes off to college and lands a job, because these people hate that the Other received education funded by taxpayers.

. . . That our world’s most dangerous leader, who controls Russia and is scheming to bring the territory of the Soviet Union under his control again, has our candidate’s admiration–and the ability to ruin him if the candidate fails to do the Russian’s bidding.

. . . That the nation becomes so focused on the Russian connection that few notice when the puppets of the oligarchy in the Legislative Branch give a huge tax cut to the oligarchs who shut the factories and kept the profits, by taking away the only lifeline the common man has, health insurance. The people who voted for the candidate, who will sign into law the soul-crushing legislation, now feel betrayed, because the they wanted the jobs and the insurance. They will rack up medical bills they will never be able to pay.

Worst of all, I dream that citizens who claim to follow a philosophy of loving one’s neighbors, of caring for the poor, and of living without judging others have forgotten that mission. The words of Jesus mean less to them than the laws of Moses. This sect applies only the punishment, and not the love, without regard for the well-being of the poor, the homeless, and those who love differently. Far too often, it is those who disdain this sect who step up and do the work of Jesus. This sect accepts this mentally ill candidate and believes their Pharisee leaders, who call him a man of God for the sake of gaining power for themselves, and then the sect votes for him.

In my coma, I see America trembling as she stands at a crossroads, one path leading to the abyss of fascism, the other leading to a return to compassion, generosity of spirit, and responsible government.

I have a dream. Many dreams, in fact. I hope the dreams I’ve described are merely nightmares, that I am locked in my head, waiting to heal enough to wake up to a world where sanity has prevailed. I would prefer that reality to the one you face now.

My biggest fear on this anniversary of the birth of Martin Luther King Jr. is that I am not having nightmares, but witnessing with you a terrible reality that, even in my nightmares, I could not invent.

Author’s Bio: Seán Dwyer is celebrating his fifty-first year as a mostly unpublished writer. His completed novel manuscripts include the Chanticleer award-winning Chocolates on the Pillow, All That Distance, and Hijo de madera. He has also won a Chanticleer award for a nonfiction book, Love Is So Brief: A Journey through Neruda’s Poem 20. He expects to finish a memoir, A Year without Tears, in early 2017.