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Today in My History

2001:   Weird Night
2002:  Come Out, Come Out, Whoever You Are
2003:  Blessed are the Peacemakers
2004:  A New Reason to Diet
2005:  Exciting E-mail
2006:  Hunter and Gatherer
2007: Lana and Martin: Day 1
2008:  Cousins Day-March
2009:  A Non-Howling Success
2010:  The Wooing of Bri
No More Love-ins
2012: Life is Good Again

Bitter Hack
: 3/11
"Midsummer Night's Dream"

Books Read in 2013
 Updated: 3/7
"Heaven is for Real"

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Karen's Wedding

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mail to Walt


16 March 2013

I would have been an OK reporter of events than an actual participant.  Some time ago, I transcribed a whole bunch of interviews of women active in SNCC (the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee), an organization that was part of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.  I was so in awe of these brave women and the things they went through working with voter registration drives.

I have never had that kind of courage, to get in there and work with the demonstrators for a cause I believe in.  (When our kids were in nursery school, we met a woman who had been in the South during the Civil Rights Movement and who had been arrested.  It changed her life, for sure.  I admired her, but even thinking about what she went through scared me.)

I was at Berkeley (working for the Physics Department) during the Free Speech Movement.  My bosses were part of the Academic Senate that was supposed to be sorting things out. I supported what the students were trying to do, to bring information tables about off-campus issues (specifically the civil rights movement) onto campus. :"On September 14, 1964, Dean Katherine Towle announced that existing University regulations prohibiting advocacy of political causes or candidates, outside political speakers, recruitment of members, and fundraising by student organizations at the intersection of Bancroft and Telegraph Avenues would be 'strictly enforced.'"

But my chosen "participation" place was safely in the Student Union, overlooking Sproul Plaza, while demonstrators massed there, while Mario Savio was giving firey speeches and our priest, Jim Fisher tried to calm the demonstrators down.  I took pictures.  I took video.  I didn't take part in the action.

A few years later Cesar Chavez came along to start the United Farm Workers Union, working to get proper working conditions for farm workers (50 years later they are still trying!).  I dutifully didn't buy grapes, didn't shop at certain stores, and watched Chavez on TV.  We even participated in a rally, sort of.   There was a long march that ended...I don't remember where.  I was very, very pregnant with Jeri at the time and couldn't do the march, but we showed up at the end and had lunch with the marchers.  I felt guilty that I was enjoying their reward when all I had walked was maybe a block of two, if that. (they did have the best tortillas, I remember!)

We missed the whole People's Park kerfuffle entirely since we had moved away from the campus area and were busy birthin' babies.

I've attended many gay rights demonstrations and marched in the Gay Pride Parade in San Francisco twice, but I always bring a camera and hide behind it, so I can be part of it...but apart from it, sort of.

I did walk from the Capitol to the reflecting pool in Washington, DC during one of the AIDS marches and I was one of the volunteers at the quilt, but it was pretty low key participation.

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(Guess who is taking the photo!  Me!)

The fire of activism is in my soul, but it somehow never makes it to my body.  You won't find me carrying a billboard or chanting slogans, but Iwill take a picture of other people doing it.

Well, I did make an exception once.

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But it was a borrowed sign that I held only long enough for Olivia to take my picture.  Otherwise, I was in the crowd, but with my trusty camera, taking pictures.

In the recesses of my mind I'm a wild-eyed radical who is willing to make the ultimate sacrifices for the causes I believe in.  But in reality, I'll take pictures, sign petitions, and post things on FaceBook.

While this was a lousy excuse when I was in my 20s, at least now being 70 may excuse me from more active participation!  But I do care.   Honest!


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Muffin - 1 Day Old
(photo by Karen Malcor-Chapman)

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