Tag Archives: Rolling Thunder

July 4, 2020

Most of my life, I have loved the 4th of July.  As a child, It wasn’t just the swimming, hot dogs and ice cream, sparklers, and the fireworks later on at the high school. I loved (and do love) my country and I was proud of it. I became interested in social studies in junior high and high school (thank you, Mr. Bohl, Mr. Torrance, and others). I got a degree in political science and one in English with an emphasis in American Studies. On this particular 4th of July, I am sad and fearful (more on this below).

For years, I have embraced the idea of being an active and outspoken citizen. I

  • butted heads occasionally with teachers whom I deemed were unfair: I got sent to the principal’s office for not backing down to a teacher, paddled by another, etc.,
  • co-wrote a letter about unfair labor practices at my first job (Camp Dearborn, Milford, Michigan) that resulted in some changes. My proudest moment there was when I refused to wait on Orville Hubbard, then mayor of Dearborn, Michigan, who at the time refused to allow African-Americans to live in that city,
  • marched against the war in Vietnam,
  • canvassed for the Poor People’s March after Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated,
  • supported the  BAM  (Black Action Movement) student strike at the University of Michigan–except when I crossed the picket line to go to my urban politics classes,
  • sent to Congress my comments related to the possible drawbacks of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline for native peoples, submitted as part of ENACT’s (Environmental Action for Survival) testimony in 1971,
  • spent years explaining to adult immigrants and refugees about civil rights and responsibilities in the United States (Note: I wrote a textbook on these matters: Community Experiences: Reading and Communication for Civics),
  • voted,
  • watched, tears in my eyes, decades of Rolling Thunder rides in D.C.; didn’t like the war, respected the warriors,
  • visited/loved scores of national parks, monuments, memorials, forests, and trails and worked in two (Zion National Park and Grand Canyon National Park),
  • volunteered in my community, from helping children learn about the watershed and planting American elms for the U.S. Park Service to working at programs that feed the hungry.

Reviewing this list, I see the smallness of my efforts. I think I need to do more for our tattered social fabric and for our endangered natural world.

Today and yesterday and these last months and three years have been difficult for me. I am sad about the continuing (possibly escalating) pandemic, and some of the responses to it. I am sad about those who died and their loved ones. I am sad about the current and uncivil strife, within the government and everywhere else. I want the American promises I believed in so much when I was young to be true and available to all. I used to extol the power and goodness of our laws, government, and social system to the adult immigrants I taught. I don’t think I could do that today. I am fearful of catching Covid-19 from those people who sashay past me without their masks. I am fearful of continued undermining of the concept of three equal parts of the federal government and a descent into authoritarianism.

However, writing this article has cheered me up.  From my window, I see the flag of the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial blowing in the wind. The mockingbird who flies around here  landed on our balcony a little while ago. On our walks, many people in this diverse National Capital Area give us hearty, happy greetings and we send our goodwill back to them. Tom is making pizza for dinner tonight.  I think we will watch another episode of The National Parks: America’s Best Idea tonight.  I am feeling hopeful now, so I am ending with a few national park photos.

Canyon de Chelly

Canyon de Chelly National Monument

Chisos Basin, Big Bend

Chisos Basin, Big Bend National Park

Lava Beds National Monument

Lava Beds National Monument

Grand Tetons

Grand Tetons National Park

wild horses, Assateague National Seashore

wild horses, Assateague National Seashore

View of Cape Royal and Wotan's Throne, Grand Canyon

View of Cape Royal and Wotan’s Throne, Grand Canyon

 

On the Edge of the Swamp

I have been doing it again. Ideas for stories rattle around in my head, but I don’t write them down and see where they take me.  For example, for a couple years now, I have wanted to write about sycamore trees.  Why didn’t I hardly notice them for most of my life? I think I will write about sycamores in a week or two,  Another possible topic: I want to write about socks I have known and loved.  Tom wondered why I would want to write about socks. I guess that is a bit hard to figure, but I think it is about where I was when I got the socks and where I walked in them.  Not an epic topic, I am quite sure, but it is true that is what I have been thinking about. I also have had a draft about doughnuts in the works for three years.  A fourth topic is the one I choose to write about today:  my observations about living on the edge of the (so-called) swamp of Washington, DC.


First, I want to go on the record to say I love swamps. It would be hard not to do so growing up on a lake in Southeastern Michigan as I did.  My brothers will remember the small swamp off Driftwood Drive with the beautiful dead tree and also all the frogs we used to hear.  I love Congaree National Park–even though the wild pigs frighten me. I love Big Cypress National Preserve and Everglades National Park–even though I am wary of  (and thrilled by) the alligators in both parks. My point is that people who might say that we (or they) need to “drain the swamp” here in the capital city are not using an effective metaphor for this water-loving native born lowlander.

Anyhow, our country is in such turmoil that I–like almost everyone I know–go through bouts of anxiety, anger, and despair. However, here in Arlington, Virginia (just across the river from DC) and whenever I go into the city, I see, hear, and feel hopeful signs. I want to write some words to convince myself–and maybe you–that the glass (possibly cracked) remains half full.

My husband, children, and I first visited the National Mall in 1978, when we moved to Arlington. We enjoyed the museums and, especially the Smithsonian Folklife Festival.* We didn’t have much extra cash then and everything (but the food) was free and wonderful. Currently, Tom and I go to the Mall almost every week and everything is still free and wonderful. Now there are more museums, more gardens, and the museum food, while still not free, is much tastier than it used to be. Often, a gloom settles on me as I read my morning Washington Post and New York Times.  Then, Tom and I hop the Metro to the Mall and my faith in the strength, resilience, and fundamental democratic spirit of our country is restored.

Every time we visit DC,  we see people thronging to the museums, the carousel, the gardens, the memorials, and the parades with the same happy enthusiasm as always. People also attend and speak out at marches and protests with the same idealistic passion as always. I believe that authoritarian despoilers are threatening our democracy. However, on Mall days, I feel like we, the people, can (and I hope, will) protect the our people, our land, our Constitution, and our democracy.

Photos

The National Mall, with pedestrians and American elm trees

freedom of speech on the Capitol Grounds

carousel on the National Mall

planting common milkweed seeds in Arlington, Virginia

Independence Day Parade, Constitution Avenue

March for Science, April 22, 2017

Rolling Thunder 2019

 

freedom quilt, National museum of African American History and Culture

*I thank the founder of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, S. Dillon Ripley, Smithsonian Secretary from 1964 to 1984, Ralph Rinzler, and many others for the festival,** the carousel, and for helping me feel at home and welcome in the capital city.

**In the past many years, the  Smithsonian Folklife Festival has been less well-funded than it was in some years.   I hope this will change. In fact, it does look like there are plans for a longer festival this year than last year. This year the festival will be June 24-28 and July 1-5. For more information see the festival webpage.