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A general rant

Speaking as the mother of a young man, can I just ask – WTF is going on with the young guys acting out hate in recent days?

 

A 17-year-old who wants to push boundaries should be coming home half an hour late for curfew (nearly every weekend of his senior year).  Not smashing a glass panel at a Holocaust Memorial.

 

A 20-year-old who wants dramatic action on the weekend should be getting together with his buddies to watch Game of Thrones.  Not plowing a car into people standing up for equality.

 

I realize that not everyone grows up in the type of comfortable liberal environment that leads to a summer spent interning at the statehouse, helping to draft transgender rights legislation, among many other things.  (Go, M!)  But it’s still appalling to see how early some lives can be so firmly skewed toward hate.

E and I went into Boston last Saturday for the GLBT Pride Parade, and while sitting on the subway I suddenly realized that it marked 30 years since the first time I went to Pride.

I remember being a nervous and uncertain teenager in 1987, who had somehow found out the Gay Pride March started at City Hall Plaza.  I remember walking up the broad flight of steps to the plaza, and at the top of the steps the whole plaza suddenly came into view, and there was an entire plaza full of gay and lesbian people, right there in front of me!  It was several thousand times as many gay and lesbian people as the 2 or 3 I’d known until that point.  It was the first time I ever had a sense of being part of a community. Or even realizing that a community could even exist.  It was amazing.

It was not all, of course, sweetness and light.  The march route wasn’t lined with cheering spectators back then, but with annoyed or vaguely hostile pedestrians, and very stern police. At least that wasn’t the year I got hassled on the subway heading home from Pride.

Fast-forward 3 decades.  E and I had a blast watching the parade.  We high-fived and shook hands with assorted politicians.  Although we didn’t mange to see our hometown favorite, Senator Elizabeth Warren, we did wear T-shirts that E had gotten by donating to Warren, which said “Nevertheless, she persisted.”  This drew assorted cheers and fist pumps from passing marchers, so there was a lot of Senator Warren love floating around that particular street corner.  And the weather was gorgeous and people were happy and it was just a fabulous day to be out and proud.

Many of the marching groups were tossing the usual assortment of beads, wristbands, etc to spectators.  Back at work the following week, I gave a couple of rainbow wristbands to a coworker whose young-teen daughter had kind of wanted to go to Pride, but felt too nervous about being in a crowd.  And I gave a couple more rainbow wristbands, plus 2 tiny rainbow flags, to a different coworker whose son has spent a while unsure of his gender identity, and for now is going with “cis-gender boy who really loves rainbows and butterflies.”

I absolutely couldn’t have imagined, back in 1987, that someday a Gay Pride March would ever be accepted enough that I’d be passing on beads and rainbow swag to my coworkers’ children.  Or that uncertain children would someday grow up with parents so accepting that they’d bring rainbow swag home.

I feel so very fortunate to be living in this time and in this place.

First, the simple one:

 

venn1

 

 

 

Then, the slightly more complex one:

 

venn-2

 

(Note: professors were eventually admitted to US after intervention by ACLU and a federal judge.)

Wow!

Just… wow!

Like pretty much any city anywhere on the planet that had a Women’s March today, Boston blew way past the expected number of attendees. Forget the 20,000 that organizers were talking about originally; forget the 70,000 they were expecting as of last night; there were 175,000 of us!

It’s impossible to explain how jubilant and empowering it felt, to be surrounded by so many other people standing up in support of women’s rights, gay rights, black lives matter, immigrants, justice, etc etc etc, and overall standing as witnesses to the importance of equality, dignity, and human decency.

And it’s hard to capture the size of a crowd that large in photos (without using a helicopter), but that didn’t stop me from trying. The corner of Boston Common where the speakers were is a natural amphitheater about the size of a baseball field. We couldn’t even get near it, there were so many people already jammed in. But it’s somewhere beyond the farther line of porta-potties.

crowd1

We ended up on one corner of the far side of the hill, along with tens of thousands of other people.

crowd4

crowd3

Want to feel the vibe a bit more? Here’s an action video, as I swiveled around on the snowbank we were standing on.

From our location, we could hear about 3/4 of Mayor Walsh’s speech; that dude knows how to yell into a microphone. We could only hear about 1/4 of Senator Elizabeth Warren’s, even though the crowd was especially quiet for her. And we couldn’t really hear anyone else. But that was OK. It was enough to cheer enthusiastically with the rest of the crowd.

Eventually the rally portion ended and the actual march began. The crowd ultimately filled the entire mile-long march route, with the first people arriving back at the Common before the later people even started walking.

Foreground shows people marching, background is hill full of people still waiting.

Foreground shows people marching, background is hill full of people still waiting.

There were loads of signs representing the enormously wide range of issues that people feel are important. But I saw one little sign that, to me, captured in a nutshell the collaborative, we’re-all-in-this-together, we’re-all-standing-up-for-each-other spirit that characterized the day.

Queers Against Islamophobia

Queers Against Islamophobia

Because of the huge crowds, we hadn’t even attempted to use the overburdened subway system today; we parked near E’s work, and walked from there. Ultimately we walked 7 miles today.

And every inch was worth it, to have been part of this.

Wow.

Because it matters

Because it matters that we hold our nation to the promises made at its founding, that this is a nation “with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Because it matters that our government upholds the legal foundation of our country, that “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Because it matters that we have equal rights, respect, and legal protection for women, for people of color, for people of all religions, for people with disabilities, for gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgendered people, for the poor.

This is why we will march and bear witness today.

wethepeople

As if 2016 hadn’t already been a monumentally awful year, it managed to go out in a particularly hellacious fashion in our family, when E’s mom came down with a life-threatening c. difficile infection in December. Public service announcement: if your elderly relative takes antibiotics (as treatment for a bad laceration received in a fall), and shortly thereafter has several days of increasingly severe diarrhea, do not assume it’s food poisoning from her eating lunch at a restaurant. Not even if it’s a restaurant that has given your wife food poisoning in the past. Not even if your elderly relative thinks it’s getting better because on day 4 she manages to eat a little solid food before getting sick again. Instead, just take your elderly relative to the local emergency room, and get her checked for c. diff., before your elderly relative becomes so dehydrated that kidney function (and everything else) is in peril.

Let’s gloss over how difficult hospital stays can be for a frail elder. Let’s just say that E spent enough time at the hospital that the person who runs the coffee kiosk eventually would just ask her if she wanted the usual.

Fortunately, E’s mom is doing OK now, after 2 separate stays in the hospital, and was back home in time for Christmas. We did a lot of cleaning at her home to avoid the risk of reinfection, which included some serious refrigerator purging for open packages of food, which also happened to turn up 16 outdated eggs meant for holiday baking she never had a chance to do.

All of which helps explain why we officially said goodbye to 2016 today through the highly therapeutic method of going to some deserted woods and whipping 16 eggs at trees.

“This one’s for Carrie Fisher.” SPLAT!

“This one’s for everybody who died.” SPLAT!

“Trump.” SPLAT!

“The electoral college.” SPLAT!

SPLAT! SPLAT! SPLAT!

It didn’t matter that my aim is so bad I sometimes missed the trees, and once didn’t even hit underbrush, and got to throw the same egg twice. It just added to the comedy of it all. E, as a former softball player, got in enough good hits for us both.

SPLAT! SPLAT! SPLAT!

Good-bye, 2016!

SPLAT!

A play in one act.

Setting: an open-plan office space in eastern Massachusetts.

Cast of Characters:

— BG (British Guy) – a middle-aged upper-level manager visiting from the company’s site in England
— AG1 (American Guy #1) – a middle-aged scientist with a PhD
— AG2 (American Guy #2) – a slightly younger and somewhat more junior scientist

——————————-

BG: So I understand you have your Thanksgiving holiday next week? What exactly is that? Is it something to do with your independence?

AG1: Yeah, next week. It has to do with the Pilgrims. It was the first year they came here, and they were really grateful. For their religious freedom. I think it was their first year. Oh shoot, I should really know this.

BG: And I hear you eat turkey?

AG1: Yes. Only the Pilgrims didn’t. They had more regular stuff. But now mostly it’s turkey.

BG: So is Thanksgiving always on a Thursday or Friday?

AG1: It’s always the 4th Thursday in November.

AG2: Yeah, and so the traffic always used to be really bad on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, with everyone traveling, and one year I got stuck on the Mass Pike for hours, but now the traffic is spread out more into Monday and Tuesday, and so now maybe Tuesday is the worst day.

AG1: There’s a lot of people now who take the whole week off, or at least a couple extra days.

AG2: When I lived in the Midwest, there was never any traffic out there, but here it’s really terrible. And then everyone comes back on Sunday, and the traffic is terrible then too. I got stuck on the Mass Pike for hours all the way from 84 one year.

BG: So does everyone have the Friday off?

AG1: Pretty much. Except for stores. They’re all open and it’s Black Friday.

AG2: Some are even open on Thanksgiving for the Black Friday sales.

BG (looking too confused to dare ask what “Black Friday” means, or why its sales would fall on a Thursday holiday): And then you do all the traveling all over again a month later for Christmas?

AG1: Well, a lot of people celebrate Thanksgiving with one side of the family, and Christmas with the other.

BG (looking relieved at something that finally makes sense, and deciding to end this conversation on a positive note): I can see how that would work out well.