Saturday, March 12, 2011

Protest Boy Grows Up

It was a good turnout today for the "Keep Texas Smart" rally at the capitol building in Austin, and a beautiful day for it, too. Or so I'm told. I couldn't make it to the protest, because, well, my son had a playdate.

That's right, I missed an important political demonstration, because I had to take my children to a six year old's birthday party. If you'd told me this back in the day, when I was shouting the usual chants (What do want? PEACE! When do we want it? NOW! and We're gonna beat back the racist attack, we're gonna beat-beat back the racist attack!) that I would have to bow out of a demonstration, and that that was my reason, I think my brain would have exploded.

When I was in my early and mid twenties, I attended a number of rallies in different places -- Boston, Washington DC, Syracuse, of course, where we camped out in shanties in front of the administration building, demanding our trustees divest from South Africa, and Madrid, where I joined an anti-NATO demonstration. We marched out to the American military base in Torrejon, where I got a swift lesson in the difference between American and Spanish police practices. In Spain they're less shy about dispersing a crowd. One moment we were marching peacefully across the square, and the next a projectile the size and color of a tennis ball whizzes audibly past my left ear, and all hell breaks loose. Suddenly we're hauling ass back in the direction from which we just came. The tennis balls turn out to be smoke bombs, and people are crying and coughing everywhere.

So I guess what I'm saying is I'm something of a protest veteran. I'll never forget when I was arguing with my father about politics. We were in Milan, visiting with my brother Andrew. Dad kept smiling at me as I made what I'm sure I thought was an iron-clad and heartfelt case about whatever my subject was; I don't remember that part. Finally I said, "What? What are you smiling at?"

"I'm remembering something that Pierre Trudeau, the former Prime Minister of Canada said, when they asked him what he thought of his son being a Communist. He said his son was in his twenties, and he'd be surprised if he wasn't a Communist."

I was so insulted at the time. I think now, however, that I probably felt that way because I knew he was right. It was his way of saying he appreciated my political idealism; I guess I just wished he'd put it more simply at the time.

And now I allowed Jeanette to represent us at today's rally, of which, by the way, I don't mean to make light. The state of Texas needs to fund education, as I've said in detail in previous posts.

I couldn't help but picture my father, sitting up in heaven, his feet dangling off a cloud. He was looking down on me, as I watched my kids frolic in their friend's backyard, and my wife chanted amidst thousands about 15 miles to the west. I pictured him with the same smile he had on during our political discussion in Milan nearly 25 years ago.


  1. well unless you are a Prime Minister's (or President's or top 5 percenter's) child, how can you afford not be a "communist"?

    but hey, it's cool how the wife took to the barracades and you took care of business at home with the kids, comrade; no longer revolutionary but evolutionary! Emma Goldman, i think, would approve. ;)

  2. Thanks, buddy. Coming from you, that means a lot.