Parenting on a Picket Line or a Protest March, Excerpt from the Newsletter

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Growing up, my brother, sister, and I didn’t own any black magic markers. Why? Because my dad used them all for protest signs. That was back in the very early 1970s, before Dad got swept up with other super-Catholics into Ronald Reagan’s orbit.

In the 1960’s, he was a super leftie with mutton chop sideburns, who joined civil rights and anti-war protests in DC. Even after he started a family, he kept up his activism, but his causes evolved into local environmental protests; at one point, he lay down in front a backhoe to stop a corrupt development project. 

My parents brought us along to their protests. My brother would be up on Dad’s shoulders, and my sister and I followed our parents and their friends around in their lines with signs. At one point, my dad started his own third party. At aged six or seven, I stood outside supermarkets with a clipboard trying to get all the necessary signatures. I knocked on doors on one of the street, while he took the other.

So, it seemed fitting that I should take my children to their first protest last week. We went into New York City and marched down Sixth Avenue with folks protesting the unjust death of George Floyd and for the need to examine policing practices in our country. 

We had some personal concerns. Of course, there is a viral pandemic still raging around us. We took precautions and hope for the best. 

Ian was the other concern. We decided to bring along our son with autism, so he wouldn’t be left home all day. We weren’t sure how he would do in this situation. As a safeguard, I labeled him with a sharpie marker. If things went south, we would have scrammed, of course, but there was a danger that things would go south tooquickly to get out fast enough. We purposely chose a daytime event in midtown that was co-organized by healthcare workers, because that isn’t the type of event for looters or rioters. We were safe. 

In our democracy, people can participate in politics in a variety of ways. Voting is the easiest. A protest takes more effort and has more risk. But there is something glorious, even party-like, about making a public statement. My college-aged kid, Jonah, is completely hooked. He’s making plans with a friend to go back to the city this weekend for more. 

One of the joys of parenting is sharing experiences and knowledge to the youngun’s. This week, we taught our kids how to be bad-asses. And in the process, it reminded me about my own activism roots. What’s going to be my next cause? Disabled kids. 

Someone get me some black magic markers! 

Be well! Laura

15 thoughts on “Parenting on a Picket Line or a Protest March, Excerpt from the Newsletter

  1. This was a great story about your family. My parents never were involved in anything other than their jobs nor did they ever discuss politics in the home. Glad your children have this family background and that you were aware of speaking out at a young age. I don’t remember my previous password but I did comment on a previous posting you wrote and do get your postings but not sure how to log in?


    1. Hi! I’m don’t think I have access to people’s passwords. It’s all through WordPress. But thanks so much for commenting and reading!


  2. Also, you can create a login just for Laura’s blog, if you don’t have a wordpress account, or don’t want to use your wordpress account to comment here. There’s no password, just an email address.


  3. My parents raised me on picket lines as well. I’m a fifth-generation trade unionist. My dad was a union president, my mom was on the executive board of her union (and was a steward), her mom was a steward, and so on and so forth. I marched on pickets for them, and various solidarity pickets.

    My dad lost the faith entirely a young man back in the early 60s before I was born, so no chance in hell of him getting swept up in Reaganism. He hated Ronald Reagan and his lackeys with the fiery passion of ten thousand suns. Still does. Politics was definitely a dinner table (and everywhere else) subject for me growing up. I was introduced to the idea that some people didn’t talk about politics or religion via MAD magazine. Me and my dad were leaving the liquor store, he with his whiskey on the dashboard (it was the 70s, man) and me with my face in the latest copy of MAD), and I asked him, “dad, is it true that some people think it’s not polite to discuss religion and politics?” “Yeah kid, it’s true” “well…….what do they talk about, then?” He spit his drink out laughing.


    1. I mean, what’s the point of talking if you aren’t going to say something interesting or important.


      1. “Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, `and what is the use of a book,’ thought Alice `without pictures or conversation?’
        So she was considering in her own mind (as well as she could, for the hot day made her feel very sleepy and stupid), whether the pleasure of making a daisy-chain would be worth the trouble of getting up and picking the daisies, when suddenly a White Rabbit with pink eyes ran close by her.”


      2. Does that mean that WASPs (who we associate with the don’t talk about religion and politics, and presumably, racism, and class, and feminism, and . . . ) read children’s books at the dining room table?


  4. OK, how is this looking on the ground:
    (also, California, which should be included:

    California is saying more testing is the cause of the increase in reported cases and that their positivity rate is low & hospitalizations are stable. Arizona might be getting close to issues with its hospitalization rate and Florida’s positivity rate is up since May (which is troublesome). Texas fatality rate is still low and they do not seem to have hospital capacity (couldn’t find the positivity rate).

    Ultimately, one might expect California, Florida, Texas, and NY to have the number of cases ranked by their population, with increases while they “catch up” with states where the infections spread earlier, and faster. But fatality rates of 1.5% are high and scary.


  5. And, if anyone read the breathless coverage of Seattle’s autonomous zone using manipulated photos in some national news channels:

    the reality on the ground is people watching (while wearing masks), speeches about the racial and police history of Seattle and participating in conversation circles (again, masked) and painting artwork. A community garden has been started.

    The Seattle Police chief has repeated several rumors that have caught fire in the network of right news sources (with additional misleading elements added). In Seattle, people feel perfectly safe taking their children there, now.


    1. Fox is deliberately trying to provide cover for police officers who have beaten and gassed peaceful demonstrators.


  6. My kids have also been raised going to protests, courtesy of growing up in Scott Walker’s Wisconsin. Schools even closed for a few days back after Act 10, so we all hit the streets with our signs. (but now they are the ones organizing and dragging me along…) We have a large supply of poster-quality-markers here. 🙂


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