(The following was written by a good friend, Michael Johnson, from Austin Texas.  He gave me permission to share this with you. I’m inspired by the way it ends with empowering optimism.)

The March on Saturday symbolizes, to me, the beginning of what promises to be a long and difficult fight and one in which victory is far from certain. I fear defeat will mean the end of our great experiment in human freedom, democracy, and equality. Very probably defeat will signal acceleration beyond return of the global upheaval certain if we don’t sufficiently slow climate change. This March begins a movement. And, to borrow from Joe Biden, it is a “Big Fuckin’ Deal”.

I plan to attend, rain or shine. I bought an appropriate hat, thought up some snarky slogans, read up on civil disobedience, and made note of the warnings popping up in various places online. But beyond that, a reawakening is happening in me. I variously felt afraid, aggrieved, enraged, and gob smacked since the election. I girded myself against helplessness and complacency. But sometimes my energy has fallen slack or I’ve found myself grousing to the choir rather than looking for action that might bend the needle even slightly in the direction of Justice.

Recently I heard again Holly Near’s “We are a Gentle Angry People.” It touched me deeply – especially the refrain – “We are singing for our lives”.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IAQkVjJzRnE

Driving home last night, I streamed a U-Tube version of that song in my car – I was raging, weeping, hurting, and with a sense of rising passion. I listened twice and arrived home with something both fierce and sorrowful slowly expanding in the stew of my feelings.

I woke about 2:00 a.m. this morning and was awake for some time. The memory of the speech Steinbeck gave to Tom Joad as Tom held his dying mother in Grapes of Wrath was running in my head. As I listened my heart beat faster.

“I’ll be aroun’ in the dark. I’ll be everywhere-wherever you look. Wherever there is a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever there is a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there…I’ll be in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry and they know supper’s ready. An’ when our folk eat the stuff they raise an’ live in the houses they build—why, I’ll be there. ”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i2JR3FmvVAw

Along with that memory last night, came something I had not felt since the double-barreled traumas of Viet Nam and Watergate broke my heart and defamed my country to me more than four decades ago. Suddenly I felt proud of my country – not the sullied and deforming version of her I see today, brimming ever more with hatred, trickery, greed, and inequity – but the country I hold and cherish in my heart – the gleaming banner of equality, justice, kindness, and hope – the country that brought tears to my eyes as a boy.

As I drove to work this morning listening to Henry Fonda speaking Steinbeck’s words, I filled with pride and awe and anger and determination and something I can only call Love. I Love this country. And I have choices to make.

I know that I am willing to march, show up for meetings, and give money. I will be singing for our lives. But the song of Tom Joad’s heart calls to me for more. He calls me to commit that I will be there – to be willing to be arrested, have my body hurt, lose business, reputation, and money. Tom calls me to be willing to die to help save and embody the dream of my beloved country. The dream that all people, no matter what, are made equal and so entitled without qualification of any more than a beating heart, as Jefferson had it, to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. I hear that call. I am unsure and I am afraid. But I hear the call. It’s a Big Fuckin’ Deal.


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