It was one of those odd moments when I’m running out my office door but the phone is ringing, and I turned the phone around to see who was calling and the receiver fell into my hand. It was Maria Emmer Aanes, from Nature’s Path, inviting me to be on a panel of moms at Lafayette Square in Washington, DC, at the end of the Right to Know March, a demonstration demanding the right for the American people to know when there are GMOs in their food.
I said yes. I said yes for three reasons. First of all, I vehemently oppose the use of GMOs. I had originally wanted to march the whole two-week march from New York to Washington, but a collapsing economy and intense business turmoil kept me from even being able to tweet about it.
But I said yes for a second, more selfish reason. Lafayette Square. It’s the scene of one of my favorite stories of women’s history, and an example of the difference between the purified stories we learn in school and the real thing….
One of my favorite books of all time is America’s Women, by Gail Collins. If you only read a few pages, read pages 310 thru 314 for the most gripping, emotional account of women finally getting the right to vote. Yeah, you’ve heard about Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, but they are long dead by this point. This is the story of Alice Paul. Have you ever heard of her? Probably not. I hadn’t before I read this book.
Alice Paul picketed the White House, in Lafayette Square Park, for 18 months!!!! Finally, she and her fellow protesters were arrested. She spent six months in prison, being force-fed while on a hunger strike. As the protesters were released, they continued to tour the country, protesting in their prison garb. The right to vote barely passed Congress (one congressman had himself carried in on a stretcher! And another left his dying wife’s bedside, at her request, to pass the vote.) It didn’t pass the Senate by two votes, so they had to get 36 states to ratify it, instead. They were short by one vote in the House to pass the amendment (I know, it’s all so confusing) and it looked like it wasn’t going to pass when Harry Burn, age 24 and the youngest state legislator, stood up and voted in favor because his mother told him to.
What this story shows me is that change is HARD. Freaking hard! We can’t just sign petitions and expect it all to change. We need to show up. March. Fight (non-violently). Raise our voices in unison to demand change. Just look at the protests that are happening around the world in this moment. It is time to demand that our governments protect our people, not corrupt businesses that are destroying our planet and our lives.
Which brings me to the third reason I said yes: for my daughters. I am bringing my teenager to Washington with me. I hope she stays safe (and that we all do). But I also hope she sees the power of people showing up, how important that is, how essential to our democracy and our freedom. It’s a real, live social studies class, and life is the teacher.
I’m not sure what to expect. From my very safe and lovely hotel room at the Hay Adams across the park, I can look out the window and see where tomorrow the marchers will arrive. Already, there is distant chanting and shouting (too far away to hear exactly what it is). I’ve joked with people that I’m here to get arrested, but of course I don’t really want to. It’s a little scary. But then, I think of the alternative, and that’s even scarier.
I’ll let you know what happens!