I looked out my window, and was struck by the flags flying nearby. It was as if I were seeing them clearly for the first time. I take the nature of freedom to choose in this town too much for granted. Every once in a while, I remember where I am living, and how different it is from so much of America. When I see a shy same-gendered couple walk by, I see their palpable relief that they can hold hands, in public, without embarrassment. They are on vacation, and for the time being, they are safe. It is 2014, and seems trivial to state the obvious, but civil rights are still fairly new in our world.
All around us in the world, new right-wing leaders are squirming into place, dusting off their shoulders, making sure their buttons are in place. We who are liberal are open-mouthed at their ascendancy, wondering what is next. We take too much for granted. Violence is perpetuated against women every day. Our society lets children shape violence in their hearts, and gives them guns. I write this from a comfortable chair, yet as a woman, I know that the threat of rape, of violence, of bias is part of my reality, and my life is shaped by that. Without a doubt, I dream more than I act.
Last week, a dear friend’s dear father passed away, Dr. Vincent Gordon Harding, who advocated in a gentle yet firm way for equality and liberty. He, together with his late wife, created and ran The Veterans of Hope organization, committed to educational awareness and action towards a more just society. He is remembered in obituaries for writing Martin Luther King’s Vietnam speech, for the books he authored, and causes he embraced. I remember him for his kindness, his laughter, and the lesson he gave me long ago which I use in nearly every class I teach. It is an exercises in remembering the stories of the women in our families, the ones whose stories get forgotten until they are repeated and shared.
My heart goes out to his family and, who continue to inspire me, whose compassion, intelligence, and joy I treasure.