Wednesday, May 01, 2013

What Activism Looks Like in My World: Feral Beasties

I kind of joke that my default mode is activism. When I found out Jude had Down syndrome, I read all the expected books but I also checked out a bunch of books on disability studies. I didn't know much about the world of disability but I suspected that there would be some fights ahead. I wanted to be prepared because I'm a fierce advocate for all my children.

And activism is kind of part of who I am. For me it started in college with the introduction to Women's Studies. One of my favorite professors was this incredibly gorgeous creative intelligent poet, Lee Sharkey. She gave me a voice for injustice which is an amazing gift to hand to someone. Under Lee, I read about fighters for women's rights, and it expanded into fights for gay rights, fat politics, racial inequality. I can close my eyes, and see her sitting in our circle, her hands swept out as she tendered our blossoming flames. There was so much anger in me when I began her classes, anger and brokenness. Activism, caring about the world channeled that anger into outrage and in trying to heal a broken world, started me on a journey to be able to honestly work on my own broken places.

When I meet H, I found a soul mate in activism. He fanned that fire started by Lee, and introduced me to some new fights. These banners I would take up in the name of my Latino/a children.

And for the last few years, I feel like I kind of stalled with the outrage. I was excited about OWS but I never really got into it like I would have when I was younger. I always had an excuse. I did some slacktivism for the Dreamers: passing on petitions, making some phone calls, fighting with people about the contributions of immigrants to this country, decrying how undocumented workers are treated. But honestly I always felt like I could do more. I felt stuck in this ennui that was kind of overtaking my life.

For the past five years, I had been totally immersed in the academy. I enjoyed what I did with a great passion, and I felt, honestly, that I was doing important work in both my writing and my teaching. In a way, I felt that it was a form of activism especially the teaching. I didn't reach all my students but I did reach a few. But when we moved to Athens that was gone.

Then came Jude. Initially I wasn't in my activism mode. I was in my freak the fuck out mode. But you know that ended pretty fast because Jude won me over. She does that to people. It was impossible for me to not be crazy mad in love with her. So when I read about Ethan Saylor? Well I knew that his mom was likely crazy mad in love with him and that she had lost her son. Senselessly lost her son over the price of  a movie ticket, and suddenly the crushing weight of the injustice of the world came down on me. This could be Jude. And as I read  more, from books to news reports, this injustice took a hold and shook awake that outrage. Because it's not just about Ethan Saylor or Jude. It's about the horrible injustices that happen all over the world to people who are different. And I knew that I had to fight this with all that I had for Jude, for Ethan, for all my children, for your children, for us.

But activism looks different than my college days. Because now I have five beasties to take care of while I'm fighting. I think they're all becoming a bit feral as I spend hours on the computer. This caught up with me the other day at a field trip I went on with my daughter's unschool. They were going on a wilderness adventure with a wonderful guide who runs a group called Wild Intelligence. It's an amazing program where children are let back into the woods. We meet her school at a piece of land called Earthsong. Throughout this wild adventure into the woods, my phone kept peeping. It was a big day as we just gotten off from a horrible teleconference with the major Ds orgs. There was a lot of messaging, a lot of commentary, and it was all coming to me via my phone in the wilderness. Even in the wild you can't escape technology.

As Piper ran wild, I was struggling behind her with Jude strapped to my chest in a carrier, R holding onto a strap and whining...I was also on my phone trying to type replies to the group. I'm sure the other moms thought I was gossiping. Little did they know I was coordinating twitter parties and press releases.

It's not easy managing a three year old and trying to type on a miniature phone pad. But I had to do it because damn it someone had killed Ethan Saylor and we need to make people sit up and pay attention. So I tumbled through the woods, tripping over roots, losing my phone a few times, and likely missing a few adorable moments with R.

My house is a wreck. The beasties are getting wilder. I'm afraid our homeschooling has been pathetic lately. Jude has gotten rather spoiled because I spend a lot of time typing while nursing. My grammar/spelling has never been the best but it's gotten a lot worst from typing while nursing. Jude is likely the only beastie who has benefited totally from my hastily typed blogs. My angry tweets. My small offerings to various groups.

I tell myself that it benefits her to have all this in arm time. After all, a hundred years ago, she might been put into an institution where she would have never been touched. Now she gets to be in my arms all day while I shoot off emails and tweets to people like Doug Gansler, GA of Maryland because I'm one angry mom and we might live in Maryland some day. I'm sure Gansler gets to do his work in an office free of children...and maybe I'd get more done but...

I wouldn't have this for inspiration...these beautiful, happy if a bit wild children who love their sister and deserve to live in a world that is safe for them all.

I've let them know what all this work is for and I've told them about Ethan. Not just about how he died but about how he lived. And sometimes, like at night, when they fight over who is going to hold Jude, I think that perhaps they aren't becoming so feral after all.

This post is part of a Blog Symposium brought to you by:

Down Syndrome Uprising


Down Wit Dat said...

Feral is a good thing. It challenges immune systems, heightens creativity and encourages development of self coping.

Yeah, that's the ticket. ;)

Fabulous post. We are changing the world, one text, one feeding session at a time.

Anonymous said...

The beasties have a great mom! They will grow up to change the world one relationship, one protest or one post at a time. When I met the lawyers at the DOJ, guess what...two of the fiercest fighters have a brother or a sister who taught them the meaning of true love.

No one will remember the messy house! They will remember the love and example you set!

Wahoo for the feral beasties!

Diane Hill said...

I'm proud to call you a friend! Keep fighting the fight and the housework can wait til later!

Rachel Douglas said...

Let out the Feral Wild Beasties in all of us! Peace and Justice for all!!!

meriah said...

I hear you about the feral piece :)

xo m

ps. I would have entered the blog hop but it requires a backlink. I'm just not able to go and figure out how to do that now... then go to the computer and get into my blog, add it, etc.

But I'm there in spirit

Mardra said...

SO much good crazy mixed in between. Absolutely beautiful. Thank you.