Wednesday, February 9, 2011


"You are militant", my father would say with a smile that showed mostly irritation with what I hoped was a bit of pride. He enjoyed ogling the television cheerleaders during football games. My response to this was that he either allow me to dress like that or stop looking. Militant was the response, a smile was the expression, but the television stayed on, and the way I clothed my body remained out of the jurisdiction of my own decision.

And they sent me to church. I was at church when the doors opened until the doors closed. I was a part of every club and activity the church had to offer. I felt quite alone in my struggle with religion. I didn't understand. Apparently you didn't have to believe all of it, just some of it, and just the some of it that was a special pet to the particular denomination. But, you could let that slide on an individual basis at times, depending on your age or particular circumstance. It was understood that teens would be teens, but should have their hormonally skewed emotions exploited from time to time to bring them back on track for brief periods. I tried to share my frustrations with my fellow teens and found no corroboration. I counted the key changes added to the music to raise my emotional reaction to a pet belief. I visited other churches in a quest for the pure belief. Finding none, finally decided that I should either leave the flock and become a Quaker or ditch the system all together. I ditched. My only response to my queries was that people do the best they can, and why did I have to be so black and white... and militant.

Over the years, I have reined in my tongue. Some on the receiving end of my beliefs would disagree. When I hear a half truth or an excuse to temporarily bury a conviction based on convenience, my brain can conjure an injuring response at a speed that frightens me. So my mouth stays closed, most of the time. I have softened my edges through amputation as I have not the skill to express myself otherwise. One of my favorite people, Tommy Smothers, said that he always played the dupe because he could not state the truth without being mean. We share a birthday.

Mayou Angelou quote: "I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better."

As I learn new things about the natural world around me and the people who struggle to co-habitate on it, I cannot understand a lack of change.

How can you drink coffee because it's cheap, knowing that it is at the expense of the grower, his/her family, his/her health? How can you know that the majority of what you eat harms your world and know that the person hired to grow and slaughter your food was hired specifically based on his inability to blow a public whistle? How can I continue to own things that were manufactured where the right of the maker does not exist and her voice is snuffed? How can I be less militant?

I felt a gratitude wash over me at a co-worker and previous supervisor one day during a meeting regarding the care of children in foster care. I had a point to make. I needed to persuade. I wanted the bureaucracy to cease long enough to hear the child's voice I thought I heard. I stuttered and stammered and spoke each word with painful care. My friend and co-worker spoke up to my aid. She will get to the point, she explained. She needs to find the words that will help you listen and not offend nor anger you.

Last night I found Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a feminist and mother and wife. I had heard her name, but always in the shadow of Susan B. Anthony along with the rumors that always tend to ensue when two strong and intelligent women become friends without the necessary aid of a male to guide and protect their joint journey. A kindred spirit. A person so consumed in her convictions as to speak with sharp wit and acid tongue what she knew to be correct. A person who could also burn her bridges through quick cruelty based in hot anger and then suffer the unintended results. Susan B. Anthony, in the end, understood her own politics. She was willing to segregate her movement, dilute her tongue, and hold hands with the hind face of her previous enemies. She did this to focus her aim to a laser point and win the day, long after her own death and with consequences to an entire race of people. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, on the other hand, grew more vociferous and progressive throughout her years. She alienated and befriended, withdrew from public and then exploded on stage, and never softened her piercing stare into the camera for her numerous public photographs.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton's first hero was Lucretia Mott, a feminist and abolitionist. Lucretia Mott refused to wear cotton or serve sugar as these items were provided on the bloodied backs of an entire race. I know why Mrs. Stanton liked her.

I am a humanist who struggles to connect to humans. I hold my tongue as best I can and watch. But, I will be forever grateful to the fates that I can see and hear the words of others who succeeded, others like me.

Because we have to do it on our own, in our solitude of self.