I was too young for the sexual upheaval of the 60’s and the birth of feminism. Though, I did my best to catch up in the 70’s, Betty Friedan and Germaine Greer were talking to someone else—maybe even to my mother, who tried to understand what her generation had missed. Gloria Steinem was almost mine, but we passed like ships, too.
I have only recently read Joan Didion’s signature works of our country in cultural revolt. This information, and the bereft feeling of missing out on the revolution, was brought home recently as I watched “Good Girls Revolt” on Amazon Prime and shook my head. Turns out, I even missed the breakthrough heyday of being a girl reporter, by 10 years at least. We were legion by the time I joined that particular team.
When Haight Ashbury was in its prime, I was in New Jersey. Watergate broke when I wasn’t paying attention. Vietnam was an idea to protest, though my older sister knew the boys who didn’t come home.
I confess: I mostly went to protest marches for the music.
Reaching back further, I only knew hints of the family that were lost in the Holocaust and barely understood that my Jewish roots would have made me a target of hatred fanned by one narcissistic, charismatic maniac and his enablers. Sure I knew there was prejudice towards Jews, and heard remarks at school. But I was in an East Coast haven, as I later understood.
All this to say I have been historically out of step with my times. Coming late to the party over and over again.
But now, this year, it feels I am in the midst of something world-shattering and I am being given the chance to act accordingly. Our national crisis almost feels like a gift, or it would if I weren’t so terrified of what it will mean to my children and grandchildren. With four of the latter now, toddling around oblivious to the cataclysmic changes around them, I can’t help thinking of how their lives will be affected. Whether it is the loss of diversity, the release of unbridled hatred of the other, or the real end to their freedom to choose when or if to start a family.
If that history that I have done my best to ignore repeats itself, our nation risks losing much of the gains made thanks to the revolutionaries and philosophers that have fed our freedoms and nurtured our progress to elevate the human condition. Do I really need to name them? Free press. Free speech. Freedom of religion. Freedom for sexual preference. Choice. Equality.
So I marched in December in the frigid cold for what I felt was our last bastion of defense, the electoral vote, hoping the electoral college’s “rogue electors” would save the day—demanding a system with one person, one vote. But, the electors succumbed to their partisan pressures, maybe their true beliefs in their party, and Donald Trump became president.
Then, when 45’s first attempt at a travel ban caused chaos, my 28-year-old son and I screamed along with the protesters at the airport in Florida, where we found ourselves after a funeral. A woman toting her carry-on loaned me her sign when she had to leave to catch her flight. I passed mine on too when I had to go. It felt like we had made a difference, and I guess the record shows we did. On our way to our gate my son turned to me, gave me an unsolicited hug and said, “We should have done more of this when I was a kid.”
He’s right. Now my boy sends me photos of other marches he joins in Manhattan and Brooklyn where he lives. I feel like I am there with him, and am his social media arm to spread the word.
Today I woke up with a renewed vision of what my role should be, now in the eye of the hurricane. And finally Germaine Greer, that activist of my generation whose words I never read until now, seems to have something to say to me: “Revolution is the festival of the oppressed,” she wrote.“All societies on the verge of death are masculine.”
I’m beginning to understand that we have to take each step with fists clenched and jaws locked as we encounter any attempts to whittle away rights for our fellow Americans. For me, after a lifetime of being on the sidelines, resistance has a new meaning.