When I was fifteen I complained that I’d missed the revolution, never once dreaming that God was saving me for something bigger than just George W. Bush. Never knowing that there could be bigger in this country to fight.
A lifetime later, on election night in 2016, we children who grew up in the shadow of 9/11 saw what we had to face. Our work.
But when you grow up, the way you go about your work changes. The fire of idealism is tempered by the realities you face. My classmates are now in the married-with-children demographic; I am something of an exception, and even I intend to apply to foster children when the time is right. Do you know how this will be my work? I will take the ones who have the problems I wished I could solve when I was a girl. The ones who find themselves unexpectedly pregnant and need someone who will support all the choices. The ones who are LGBTQ+. Tweens and up, the hard placements.
In order to get there, I have to keep my nose clean and become employable.
Someone on Twitter asked what I would have done, witnessing the Holocaust. I answered this in thread form already, but I’m going to elaborate because my grandparents had front-row seats to the war. Which this guy on Twitter still hasn’t acknowledged, bee tee dubs. It’s like he’s afraid to engage with someone whose family actually had to choose.
Because they did have to choose. We were a city with a Jewish population. There is no disputing that. I’ve researched it; I’ve tried to trace the ones who were taken away; it’s a giant job and I’d need to be independently wealthy in order to make any real headway, because there’s not enough free time to make it my hobby. Add to this the ease with which my mother pops out with Yiddish bits, then is surprised to hear that’s what they are?
We didn’t live in a vacuum. We would have had our own choices to make. Somehow, my deaf great-aunt was left safely in the care of nuns, educated, fed, and housed. Both sides of my mother’s family were farming stock, and I have cousins who still are. I suspect we made sure we could still feed the family, not to mention have some to spare. I wonder sometimes whether my grandmother sold produce on the black market. She was spunky enough to have done it.
We kept the kids out of the Hitler Youth and the BDM. That was a political gesture, and not a subtle one. Exactly one family member bothered with the Nazi party proper, for the booze and the girls. His decision was the aberration in our family, not the norm. My grandfather and his brother did not volunteer; they were conscripted into the Wehrmacht. My great-uncle did not come home. My grandfather eventually did, having been captured by the Russians. It was, for those boys, be shot in Bamberg or be shot on the Eastern Front.
What good would it have done anyone if they had refused? What was one boy more or less to the German military?
I’m going to walk to benefit Benincasa, our local hospice, on Friday.
My health is built up enough that I can tolerate that much crowd and that much exertion. I’m not so sure that translates into marching in a protest in the city. I know when I’m more of a liability than an asset, though, and somewhere I can’t just safely nope out of? Miss me with that. Especially since asking for help with the inevitable panic attack might well get me arrested.
I don’t want any arrests on my record for a reason: it is much harder to work in the field of law when you have a certain reputation. I’ve decided that’s how I’m going to stand and be counted. I’m going to sit at a desk and help someone else out of a sticky situation. What is one small woman more or less at a protest?
How much more effective to be able to mobilize and support the lawyers who represent those who are arrested? To help those who, when their children are seized unlawfully, need somewhere to turn? Radical gestures have no meaning to me. This action, this has meaning. This has purpose. And this will bring me enough income that I can reach out and help yet others. I can consider fosterage. I can let friends who need a night or two somewhere safe stay somewhere safe. With me.
I don’t believe in burning it all down. I believe in dismantling what doesn’t work, in a safe way for everyone who relies on the old system, and building a new one in and among the ruins.
If that makes me not good enough, well, you haven’t seen me properly furious, and when the time comes that even a small woman with health issues is necessary, rest assured there I am. But before that time, berating me into acting the way you want me to act is utterly pointless. I get it from my mother-line. None of the women in it have been easily moved once we made up our minds. We have all needed very good reasons to change our paths.
So give me a reason to get in the streets if that’s where you honestly think I can do the most good, or acknowledge that I might know what I’m doing by staying home.