Chicago February 1952 Fifty one years ago this February I bundled myself and my two year old son, Steve, in layers of scarves, coats and mittens as protection against Chicago’s bitter windy lakefront. A hundred young parents, members of the Committee for Peaceful Alternatives, pushed strollers or held small children’s hands, as we walked a half mile along Hyde Park Boulevard to the frozen lake shore. Staunchly facing the bitter wind, even more staunchly rebelling against Harry Truman’s threat to use The Bomb against North Korea. (and today, how ironic, North Korea might use The Bomb against us.) Two weeks ago my son Steve, now 53, took his young nephews to the Peace March in San Francisco. I told Steve that if I’d had a wheel chair, it would be his turn to push me.
Washington, November 1969, the Vietnam Moratorium. I’d taken a charter bus filled with hippie students from the University of Chicago,. Forty-one year old me was caught in the midst of “never trusting any one over thirty” . We shared wine, bread, cheese, joints, passing them from one side of the bus aisle to the other. Someone in the back had a guitar, another a penny whistle. More festive than political. Songs and conversations softened to a hum late into the night. We awoke at daybreak in western Pennsylvania. A scattering of snow on the hillside was pink in the sunrise. From deep within the bus, a voice softly sang : “Oh beautiful for spacious skies”, until all the voices filled the entire bus – filled, it seemed the entire world. Even the driver joined in. How very much we loved our county.
Kenwood February 2003. I watched throngs worldwide march on a soundless TV while I listened to KPFA radio. My tears flowed when I heard an aged, cracked and weak- voiced Pete Seeger sing “Over the Rainbow.” I hoped he would sing “Down by the Riverside” as I’d heard him do so many times, but if he did, Pacifica did not broadcast it – Seeger, whom I first heard at Union Square, New York City in 1948 when I went to a rally for Henry Wallace for president. Pete Seeger – remembered rent parties in the 50’s after he’d been black listed and couldn’t get gigs. He often sang at Steve’s nursery school. Seeger, Studs Terkel, Zero Mostel, Shirley Lens – among those who stuck by their ideals and principals and lost their jobs to blacklists.
Santa Rosa January 2003, I stand on the street corner waving a sign, looking like an aging Barbra Streisand. I forward emails; I sign petitions, I call senators and representatives. And everywhere I hear and see and smell that unspeakable thing that I don’t want to write about. Instead I look out my window and see the jonquils budding and think about spring – spring that comes and blooms and renews itself and renews loving.
And that’s what we need to do. Love. Pray. The Jews have a myth: that if every Jew everywhere in the world kept Shabbat all on the same Saturday, the messiah will come and bring peace. I’m trying to find hope in all this chaos. My daughter, Gail, read me a letter from a Buddhist friend who wrote that we need to love everywhere and everyone. We even need. to love Bush and Hussein. And maybe if we love everyone, all of us all at the same time, we will have peace. I feel alone sitting here at my computer. Alone as when Roosevelt died or when Kennedy was shot or when King was killed. My world is teetering. I want to be very small and curl up on a fat comforting lap and be patted and hear a kind voice say that I am only watching a bad TV show. And then I can turn off the TV. I yearn to be like those bright jonquils— growing up from the dark damp earth, bringing springtime, bringing hope.