"Grandma Helen Vandevere" by Kira Carrillo Corser. Image courtesy of the artist.

Yes, you got that right, a matriot revolution. We have the word. We have the will. And, wait, best of all, we’re already doing it.

First, a story about where the word began. It was 1991, during the first Gulf War. I was sitting at my desk and heard on the radio that our defense forces had invented a missile and called it a Patriot. That evening, I invented a word, asking myself, If that’s what a patriot is, what does a matriot look like?

And then I created a definition: “A matriot is one who perceives national defense as health, education, and shelter, for all of the people in his or her country, and the world.”

What does a matriot look like? I think of a guest at my dinner table at that time, a physicist who told me he designed ‘smart’ bombs. I asked him what he would do with this technology if he were using it for peaceful means. “I would build hands,” he said, “for people who are paralyzed.” This is what a matriot looks like.

I think of Fort Ord military base in Monterey. The Army had closed down the base after 80 years, and I’d been hired to work with other faculty to convert it into a university. We turned the artillery vault into an on-line library, the blood bank into an environmental research lab, the jeep and tank garages into classrooms and public art studios. We transformed the survival training station into a childcare center, gas masks into little laughing shoving mouths at the water fountain. A thrill to be doing this matriot work.

Each in our own way, women and men, old and young, we’re already doing it. Solidarity, intersectionality, working together across issues. Our teenagers are leading us with #NeverAgain, taking on gun control and resisting the NRA. We’ve stood up for women’s health and safety in the #MeToo anti-harassment movement. We’ve protested, united with the #BlackLivesMatter movement. We’ve taken a knee, a Kaepernick, at football games, at high school basketball games. We’ve lobbied to protect health care. And to protect the health of our planet.

In each of our communities, stories. Here’s one from Portland. Maybe you saw the image on-line? Activists from our chapter of #350, the global grassroots climate movement, paddled out in their kayaks, along the Willamette River. Kayaktivitsts, they called themselves. And Greenpeace rappellers hung from the bridge. Together, they blocked a Shell icebreaker en route to Alaska, stopped it from leaving our port, delayed Shell drilling for oil. For two days, they held the blockade.

These just name a few of the swelling millions taking action across the country, fighting for education, shelter, health for everyone, doing this kind of national defense. Matriots all.

In the naming of what is, the revolution is.

How are we going to pay for all this? No one ever says we don’t have enough money to go to war. No one ever says we don’t have enough money for national defense. This is national defense.

And yes, matriot is a sexist word. Here’s what I figure: we’ve understood patriot to include both men and women for hundreds of years. It’s time to use matriot, understanding that it still includes both women and men, for the next few hundred years. See what happens.

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Poet  Frances Payne Adler  is the author of 5 books, including Making of a Matriot (Red Hen Press, Los Angeles), 2003 and 2nd edition, 2017. Adler is Professor Emerita, California State University Monterey Bay, and founder of their Creative Writing and Social Action Program. She lives in Portland, Oregon.


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