Protesting 101

My phone rang.

"Grimmy," chirped my 4-year-old grandson, "we went protesting today."

Our daughter had organized her two children, ages 2 and 4, and led a protest of 3 on a busy street corner in her city.  It was quickly organized, so not surprising no one else showed up.  The kids made posters.  The kids told me they decorated their posters with "lots of people."

"I'm protesting with my mom so other kids can stay with theirs!!!"
"End Family Separation!"

"Wanna know my favorite part, Grimmy?  The beeping and the waving, and there were people giving us thumbs up."

"What were you protesting?"  I asked.

"Mr. Sessions and President Trump don't know how to share.  And that is not nice," the little guy stated with authority.

Our daughter tweeted out a series of suggestions about how to talk with preschoolers about what is happening with the separation of families at the US southern border.  Use age-appropriate language and concepts, and gather books from the library to stimulate conversation and questions.  A family favorite is A is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara.

Our grandchildren are experienced little protesters.  I don't remember ever taking my own children out to protest.  I don't remember my parents ever taking me or my siblings out to protest; protesting was something "other" people did.  That was in the 1960's.  I was a little kid and completely uninformed about civil rights movements or protesting about redlining in my community. 

During the last 23 years of being in relationship with the people of El Salvador, I have learned a lot about my own ignorance and my own lack of political action domestically and internationally.  As an adult, I protested for the first time in El Salvador.  I advocated with local government in El Salvador.  I participated in marches, civil actions and protests in El Salvador.  Why?  Because I was asked to accompany and to advocate alongside brothers and sisters in the Salvadoran Lutheran Church.

Being in relationship with a church that works intentionally, publicly and politically on behalf of struggling people has inspired much of the work that I now do in the US.  Working to protect our city's water resources, walking with Black Lives Matter and justice coalitions to change unjust law enforcement practices, and marching with migrants calling for protection for Dreamers are walks that for me began in El Salvador.  Many of my friends who also connected in solidarity with the people of El Salvador or other places around the globe describe a similar personal journey of evolution in their domestic work through international experiences. 

This story began with the protest musings of a 4-year-old.  As I was pondering what else to include in the story, I did not really plan for it to take a path into my personal protest journey.  But it did.  And among my musings, a couple of forgotten protest stories from my early years bounced back into my head.  Sometimes, in the midst of the serious, I think it is good to embrace a bit of humor...

My mom is going to read this little tale and probably not remember it as funny.  We grew up with a garden, and typically had lots of delicious fresh or home-frozen vegetables on our table.  However, one winter week, Mom decided to use up the older canned goods from the basement pantry.  She created a couple of meals featuring the yuckiest canned vegetables from the backs of the shelves.  Saturday arrived.  I snuck into the basement pantry and pulled the last yucky cans of asparagus off the shelves and hid them.  Then I secretly organized my younger brothers and sister.  We made posters and taped them to sticks, calling for a boycott of canned asparagus.  We marched around the kitchen table, chanting and holding up the posters, seriously refusing to eat canned asparagus.  We were unsuccessful.  We had to sit at the table and eat canned asparagus.  Truth:  I still cannot eat any kind of cooked asparagus to this day.

A later protest was successful.  One day in high school some friends found fingernails and a hair in their food.  It was disgusting.  It was also not the first time someone found hair in the cafeteria food.  I organized a brown bag lunch protest and we boycotted the cafeteria food.  Gloves and hair nets were introduced.  Victory!

My mom is a little worried about her great-grandchildren protesting.  I get that.  Protesting can have its risks, and as parents and grandparents we work tirelessly to keep our little ones safe.  And that is the point of the protests which families are making right now.  Little ones are not being kept safe.  Little ones are crying for their parents. 

We are marching with our Mommy so that other little ones can stay with theirs.


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