Powerlessness and disconnectedness, 4.5 years later

The other day I was thinking idly about the Iraq War and how it’s been going on so long I couldn’t even remember when I started, and I happened to look at my impossibly tall, strong daughter, and I realized that I knew exactly how long it’s been going on: as long as she’s been alive. Actually almost 2 months longer: I was arrested in the protests the day the war started, and I was 7 months pregnant with her. In four and a half years a human being can go from 7 pounds of delicate helplessness to a running, jumping, somersaulting, questioning, back-talking, joke-making, reading (almost!), writing, loving person. And in that same time, your country can start a war which kills 654,965 Iraqis, 3,921 US armed forces, 933 US contractors, 307 armed forces from other countries, 112 journalists, 40 media support workers, and 95 aid workers. (From Wikipedia). The scales are too different to fathom, and yet the impact on me of that one little (big!) life is so much greater than all the deaths, it doesn’t make sense. She is my universe. Iraq is a distant, abstract tragedy. I was tempted to call it a nightmare, but that’s at least something I would experience. It doesn’t touch me.

The mapping of the personal and political milestones is even tighter here: Chris and I moved from our old house on September 11, 2001. It was a big leap for us, moving into a house roughly three times the size of the old one and in need of significant attention. It was the start of our new lives, our marriage (very shortly after we moved in) and our becoming parents. It was, apparently, also the start of a new world. The world would never be the same after 9/11. But I’m hard pressed to say how this new world manifested itself in our lives. I don’t know anyone who’s been deployed to Iraq or died there. Our change of neighborhood, on the other hand, has determined so much of who we are as a family now.

There are giant feet-think panes of semi-liquid plexiglass between us and the world we live in. It seemed at the time I was about to get arrested that I was doing something momentous. Greg was with me and he was flipping out. He was convinced I was being irresponsible to my unborn child, and he was on the phone with Chris who was similarly freaked out. I had to steel my courage to get rounded up by the San Francisco police in an intersection on Market Street. Drums were beating, people were shouting. It was loud and chaotic. I was in a brown striped dress with black books; I didn’t look like a hippie, and I thought it would be good for an “older” (oy, that’s me) more conservative person to get rounded up. I wasn’t the only professional in the crowd by a long shot, but we were the minority. I hoped to make at least some small statement, but when I was released (incredibly quickly, due to my gigantic belly and all the liability and PR issues I represented) I realized there had really been no point to anyone but maybe me, and even that was a big maybe. I had cost the good city of San Francisco so many dollars in police and civil servant overtime, and I had made a lot of people very late for work. And my best friend and husband kind of pissed at me. End of story. You can scratch at the plexiglass, but it somehow heals itself right back up. Not that we are willing to sacrifice what it might take to break it.

Corey and Katya and I talked about this the other night at the new wine bar on Lakeshore (review to come – don’t worry; I’ll lighten up soon). What if the next election is stolen too? What if we can no longer deny that the election system is rigged and the will of the people is a joke? What will we do? March? With our kids? Would we risk our precious time, much less our lives? Not likely, because who believes it would make any difference? We need a new form of protest. Maybe it’s just economic. If a quarter of American moms completely ceased all discretionary spending, would it matter? Do we have any power? Or do we need to put on our marching shoes? There are so many hopes pinned on Obama now. He’d better fucking win.

I’d like to post the story of my being arrested here, since I never shared it with anyone after it happened. I can’t find it at the moment, but I think it’s on the hard drive at home, and if I do find it, I’ll add it to the bottom of this post after the jump. Or I’ll post it on March 20, which will be the 5th anniversary of the war.

One response to “Powerlessness and disconnectedness, 4.5 years later

  1. Jen – nice blog and thanks for promoting it in Vegas this week. I also attended a few of those protests back then. In fact, one of them was with my brother and sister-in-law who was also VERY pregnant at the time. She had the peace sign painted over her big exposed belly. They now have a 5 year old daughter themselves and live in Palo Alto with their life revolving around my little niece. Sadly, I now have to remind my brother to vote. Back to the war march, I recall a woman dressed in garb with a sign that said “WAR? That’s so 90’s”….not the case….the sad truth is that it has gone on for the larger part of the first decade of our new millenium. Would any form of protest make a difference? I am unfortunately and uncomfortably leaning towards the NO answer on that one…having said that, I would hop on that next form of protest if it surfaced (I am just hoping it won’t be over a sabotaged election).

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