Grandmothers Against the War ... Keith Olbermann wudda loved it!
Received an alert from the network of old feminist pacifist activist friends with whom I've marched and sang and protested since the Sixties. We were young then, but no more. We were dedicated and idealistic and exuberant in the traditions being newly forged in this part of the country and the world. There was such a dead earnestness about those days with tears shed and speeches screamed at those who would bring the horrors of our time upon ourselves and our young.
Yesterday I felt something new. We've mellowed! The call that came (no longer from the Quakers or the Women For Peace but from MoveOn and CodePink, etc.) but it rang with the same urgency and achieved the same response. Roughly 350 of us -- now grey-haired and softer of body and quieter of soul -- turned up at the Oakland Armed Forces Recruitment Center at 21st and Broadway to enlist!
This time we laughed! Oh how we laughed! Inside these old lady bodies lived, still, the young rebels against the rulers as before. And, there scattered among the grandmothers were a fair number of "Grandfathers Supporting Grandmothers Against War!"
Those young uniformed armed forces recruiters behind the bolted doors (yes!), must have wondered, "what in the world...?" That was inside. Out on the streets (where the Oakland police had closed off a two block area as the crowd spilled out over the sidewalks the comments were hilarious!" Signs were poignant; "Take us instead, we've already lived our lives." And, some carried signs with photographs of grandsons and daughters now fighting in Iraq or stationed in Afghanistan.
My favorite comments, "We'd be cheap to deploy -- you wouldn't have to supply us any body armor -- we've got 'em built in -- just some sturdy aluminum walkers, some crutches, a few motorized wheelchairs and a generous supply of Depends and we're good to go!" And another woman added, and you wouldn't even have to ship some of us home! Gallows humor? Most decidedly.
There was a woman with a hand drum, a guitar or two, the old songsheets, and all of the old songs we've been singing now for at least 30 years. "We shall not moved," and "Blowing in the Wind," and "Joe Hill," plus some lovely rounds I'd not heard before but reflect the more recent generation of women ... nice ... .
As I walked back to the parking lot to return to my desk in Richmond, the grin of freshened memories persisted. How on earth could I have felt such joy at an occasion such as this? I'd spent over an hour renewing friendships -- spending that extra several seconds as my eyes were able to slowly get behind the wrinkles and white hair and see those wonderful women whom I now barely remember that I've missed.
I drove away letting the tears fall where they may without notice. Maybe we did have an effect on the wars of our times, maybe. Maybe not. Vietnam took so much from us all - even those who survived it. And there is irony in the fact that I work every day in the shadow of the Kaiser Shipyards where we once built ships faster than the enemy could sink them, and won the war of my youth in the process. The irony is that on that very site -- in that very shipyard -- present day use is the storage of new autos shipped in for USA consumers, made in Japan, the nation of the enemy that we fought to its knees!
Then I remembered the joy of today and Barbara and Dion and Elizabeth and Judith and Becky and Wendy and all of the others who came together one more time before sunset to say "No" to the sending of our grandchildren to far away lands to kill the grandchildren of other women whose lives will be diminished by the arrogance of power gone mad.
Our symbolic attempt to enlist in the armed forces to take the places of those whose lives are just beginning made a statement. And ultimately, I'm sure that each of us knew that we'd have little effect upon the warmongers, but that -- one more time -- we'd done what we had to do for ourselves and for the sake of our own sanity.
There was also comfort in knowing that in 16 other cities in faraway places other women of our time had joined with us in simultanous solidarity.