Archive for April 2017

An Authentic Hero: My Rant on Resistance

 

by Jon Shaunessy

I don’t expect much from anyone any more.

I spent most of my life organizing people to stand up for something, almost anything, they could believe in, something greater and more important than themselves.

I retired from trying to make a living at it but found it impossible to quit completely. So I tried to find something simple, low key, and that wouldn’t matter too much if I [once again] failed miserably at changing anything:

What could possibly go wrong?

It was 2014 and, while climate change might eventually bring the human race to an early extinction, that was way off in the future and everything seemed to have its ups and downs and maybes. Al Gore had made it into a hit movie and no one asked him about it anymore.

I could dabble. I could take my time. No one would notice if I got nothing done for a few years or a few decades. At age 66 I only had a few decades left, so . . .

What could possibly go wrong?

Meanwhile, back in my home town, a little college town in the upper left hand corner, they started building the biggest “luxury college dorm” the town had ever seen. The most grotesque, bloated, monument to hubris money could buy.

And only one man stood in their way.

But he’s not the hero.

But I helped him stand in the way because I thought maybe building huge projects in the middle of narrow streets and tiny apartments and condos would make a bad climate situation worse.

And no one else really cared. And the local papers, daily and weakly, looked the other way. And neighborhood groups stayed focused on neighborhood issues. Global issues had nothing to do with local people.

And then the phone rang.

Someone [let’s call her KLH because those aren’t really her initials and she doesn’t really want anyone to know her name] called me up, out of the blue, to ask if anything could be done to STOP THAT

GOD

DAMNED

NOISE!

She seemed to think that she, mere tenant, a mere college kid, had certain inalienable rights, equal to those of two billionaires living comfortably in a sunnier state in the same union.

Those God damned machines at that too fucking big project triggered symptoms of her PTSD* condition in 2015, before she ever heard them, before they moved their first cubic yard of dirt out of the way and into the dump trucks.

Feel it in her bones, ringing in her head.

Which she refused to ignore, refused to shut up and go away, like everyone else would. She would stand her ground while others drifted away. She would speak truth to power when no one else was listening. Just as she still does to this day.

Just as her sister, Joan, a simple farm girl in France in 1425, seeing and feeling visions that would save her nation but not her life, was labeled a crazy witch for acting on her feelings. They knew where she bivouacked and they knew what to do.

Or her sister, Rosa, in Montgomery, who just sat in her bus in 1955 because she knew right from wrong. And she knew her rights and she knew that the Klan* knew her address.

And the older and wiser leaders of the local NAACP chapter may have looked at her the way most people may look at KLH today. Foolishly idealistic if not clinically insane for saying what she says and never really backing down, never really being as polite as she sometimes acts.

All I felt was blessed, probably the way MLK* felt about Rosa or the Dauphin of France felt about Joan before him.

Blessed with someone, anyone, who would stand up to anyone, anything to get what she wanted.

Wanted passionately for herself, but also for others, more than herself.

So it’s over, right?

There’s really nothing anyone can do about it, right?

So England will win the Hundred Year’s War, right?

And it’s still segregation forever, right?

And we will never, ever, STOP THAT

GOD

DAMNED

NOISE!

Right?

Author’s Bio:  Jon Shaughnessy is a climate care organizer who thinks most people will only take steps to prevent climate chaos if people who already care [and know how to write] improve the “messaging” of the global environmental movement. He has learned from personal experience that most people are concerned but don’t see or hear anything that speaks directly to their situation in the world. He has met many amazing heroes in his lifetime in many different walks of life, in many different struggles, and hopes to find more people like the subject of this essay before he dies. Most recently, he has been associated with Friends of Climate Care, which can be contacted at 360/671-0248 or redjon76@yahoo.com.

The Benefits of Being Wrong

by Barbara Clarke

We were in Best Buy looking to buy a laptop. But first, we were looking for a geek in the familiar blue shirt. “Someone who looks smart and won’t talk down to us,” we agreed.

“Hey, how’s it going?” said a non-geeky looking young guy. We started to walk past him—too cool sounding—we were serious! But, given that it was a late Sunday afternoon and a sales-associate desert, we stopped. Tony, by name, turned out to be so knowledgeable, kind, and so many other fine attributes we couldn’t wait to get home to send off our five-star reviews of him.

Later that night, thinking about writing this blog on resistance, it hit me. Wanting to be right is really a form of resistance—to being wrong. Or that middle place where you are kind of right, but short changing yourself by closing your mind too soon. And then my own examples began to pour out of me. All of the times I had been so sure and had missed out on—well, life.

Here are a few of the costs and benefits of being wrong:

  • This is going to take too long or an even better one—a very long time—so why start? It can run the gamut of a long line for coffee at 7:00 a.m. to signing up to start a memoir. I’m 90,000 words into my memoir—thanks, Cami and classmates!
  • This is going to be too hard. I don’t have the skill set, the training, and of course, the MFA. Everyone in the class will be way ahead of me, right? Wrong. We are all there to learn, whatever our training. When I think I’m simply not good enough or know enough, I lose out. If it were just negative thinking, I’d be more lenient, but this is pressure from me on me to not be caught wrong.
  • I’d like to attend an RWB gathering on Saturday, but I don’t know anyone, and when I picture myself there, my heart races like those “wall-flower moments” from my teen years. What if no one talks to me? Wrong, so, so wrong! I found my tribe. And they are very talkative.

I’ve been wrong on these occasions and many others, driving home with regret as my faithful companion. Now that I am writing a memoir and doing a lot of digging deeper, I found these personal sources of my need to be right—or resisting being wrong:

  • I grew up in Missouri—the “show me” state. A blessing and a curse. We are given a finally honed bollox detector, passed down through the generations. My homeland favors black and white, right and wrong—not so keen on the color gray where more surprises, more choice, and fun reside.
  • I don’t “get those people.” This is so prevalent in today’s post-T_____ election world. I worked in the healthcare racket for fifteen years and can’t tell you how many executives and doctors refer to their patients—especially the ones they blame for their illness—as those people. So now when I see variants of this on FaceBook and in the harsh comments after articles and posts, I cringe.
  • Rather than feeling so right(eous), I’d rather try for understanding. I may not wind up having “those people” in my circle of friends, but at least I don’t want to think of them as the enemy?* Since I’m flawed, seriously so at times, why can’t they be?
  • Being right sometimes—well, it feels good. But, having to make snap or hard-edged judgments, even in Best Buy, to overcompensate for own my insecurities, close my mind and heart to all that lives in the gray area—these are my losses.

I leave you with my favorite poet, Mary Oliver, who, whenever I’m lost or at a loss for an open heart, reminds me:

“Becoming keenly and consistently aware of what’s good, true, and beautiful demands a discipline: we must open our eyes, minds, and hearts, and keep them open.”

*One disclaimer to my compassion quest: my noble venture does not apply to so many politicians. They earn every bit of the resistance we can muster!

 

Author’s Bio:  Barbara Clarke works as a freelance grant writer and is extremely tardy posting to her blog www.thiscertainage.com . She is not tardy and working very hard on The Shape of the Brain, a memoir, and grateful for Memory into Memoir coming into her life. Her first memoir, Getting to Home: Sojourn in a Perfect House, was published in 2009. She uses Beckett’s “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better,” as her mantra and writing guide. www.barbaraclarke.net

Understanding The Other

by Linda Lambert

You may remember Laura Rink’s first Resistance blog on Ignorance in which she sought “to understand my fellow Americans better,” those individuals who were other—not white, straight, or middle class as she is. She developed a substantive list of ten books.

Like Laura, I seek to deepen my understanding of others, to seek connection, and to have empathy. A whole lot of Americans, including members of my own family, voted differently than I did. To me, they are “other.” And that’s why I requested and picked up the following book at the South Whatcom Library: The Making of the President 2016.

Subtitled “How D______ T____ Orchestrated A Revolution,” and authored by a conservative political strategist who played a significant part in electing Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, Roger Stone’s tome was an unlikely volume for me to tote home.

I am reading a book by a man who has written for Breitbart and Fox News, and who has been banned by CNN and MSNBC for his “politically incorrect” criticism of Bill and Hillary Clinton. Roger Stone is a guy who says the reporting standards of alternative media “are superior to the networks and the cable news behemoths.” To get a feel for who he is, watch this interview by Charlie Rose on CBS News.

I am reading a book by the author whose provocative tiles include The Man Who Killed Kennedy, The Case against LBJ, The Bush Crime Family, The Clintons’ War on Women, and Nixon’s Secrets.

On election night, so many of us were gobsmacked: “How could this have happened?” Roger Stone provides his answers, divided into three parts, in The Making of the President 2016 (362 pages):

  1. How D____ T_____ Hijacked the Republican Presidential Nomination
  2. How Hillary Clinton Stole the Democratic Presidential Nomination
  3. How T_____ won the White House.

(In writing this review, I have broken Red Wheelbarrow’s rule to avoid the name of the current president, but omitting his name from the title and headings of Stone’s book is unacceptable to this librarian.–The RWB webmaster made an editorial decision to blank out all but 45’s initials above)

I read with respect for an author who provides thirty (30!) pages of well-researched endnotes and for a writer who has contributed Op-Ed pieces to The New York Times. Yes, Stone is politically my opposite, but what he writes contributes to my understanding of those who voted for an individual I do not respect.

The election of our current president moved me, a newbie to the activist movement to Do Something! My wife and I marched in the Bellingham Women’s March. Then we joined Whatcom Undaunted, a newly formed group founded by Betsy Gross, one of dozens of groups under the Indivisible umbrella.

I lean on the twenty-five smart, involved women who meet every three weeks to have study sessions, share information, and promote action. You can check out our website built by Sue Ming and myself under Pam Helberg’s leadership. Work on the website has been my main contribution so far, but I have upped my attention to the League of Women Voters material and meetings and I strongly believe the quotation emblazoned on our website (“A leader once convinced that a particular course of action is the right one must be undaunted when the going gets tough.”—Ronald Reagan) and the description of our group: “We are a group of energized women dedicated to generating positive change.”

The act of resistance, too often heavy on pushing back, fighting back, and counteracting, necessitates forward movement, especially by those inclined toward the creative arts. As Toni Morrison said:

“This is precisely the time when artists go to work There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.”

The writers in Red Wheelbarrow already knew that. That is why we publish a Resist essay every week.

Author’s Bio: Linda Q. Lambert is a retired community college library director, a recent graduate of the Stonecoast MFA Creative Writing program at the University of Southern Maine, the mother of four sons and three daughters, and grandmother to thirteen. She also holds a masters degree in Journalism from the University of Southern California and one in library science from Emporia State University. She’s working on a bio-memoir of George Reuben Anderson, a civil war vet and her great grandfather. 

She inserted the initial Q in her name to honor the Quinbys who adopted her and to eliminate the alliterative overkill of Linda Lee Lambert. She is married to Amory Peck. Linda blogs at lindaqlambert.com