In honor of Women’s History Month, we present 31 Days of Revolutionary Women; a series of daily essays by local authors documenting, honoring and celebrating powerful women who inspire us in South Seattle and beyond.
by Robin Boland
I recently asked my mom if, during her previous experience living under fascism, she had fantasized about leaving the country, aka running away from home. During our country’s most recent political upheaval she’s been maddeningly calm, telling me that “we’ve been here before” and that “it’s all a pendulum”. I expect she’s referring to the revolutionary era of the 60s and 70s when she protested against the Vietnam war, Nixon and imperialism as well as fighting for gay rights, women’s rights, immigrant’s rights, healthcare access and reproductive freedom.
I don’t mean to sound blasé or dismissive of her earlier revolution. In fact those years have come back to me in stark relief lately. It’s just that when I was growing up in a radical gay collective in Seattle in the 70s I was initially so immersed in talk of the bourgeoisie, pigs and overthrowing the government that I took it all as a natural state, to be in conflict with and fight against the government. I perceived Officer Friendly, an SPD officer that visited elementary schools in my youth, as an agent of the state who was trying to get us to rat out our parents in the war on drugs (I haven’t changed my mind).
In the 80s, after a whole 10 years of life my perspective was “wait, you actually thought you were going to overthrow the government?”. From a jaded 10-year old’s perspective living under the Reagan administration (we called him “Ray-Gun”), the fight against the government seemed futile but sweetly optimistic. In those years I attended many a march and in the 80s it was all about El Salvador, Nicaragua and the US running drugs through Central America (remember Ollie North?) as well as AIDS and ACT UP and military spending.
Fast forward to the woman’s march in January of this year and I’m marching alongside my mom and she’s telling me all about how we’ve been through this before.
Honestly my educated, privileged self had been going along being angry at the homophobes, the gynoticians and the murderous police forces across the country (and in our own backyard) but I’d never been face to face with the stark reality of fascists truly running our country. But here we are. Facts, rights and reason seem to have lost their footing on the slippery slope of nationalism and the fascists have come out of the closet. So, I asked her, had she fantasized about running away? Here was her response:
“I had a whole underground life planned as a hair cutter. I had a false ID from California.
I went to Europe as part of my graduate work in 1969 and realized I couldn’t live there. I had a sense of being an American and that I needed to fight here in the belly of the beast. In 1971 when I went to Cuba and met the Vietnamese students they told us how after big demonstrations the bombing would slack off or minor diplomatic progress would happen. The Vietnam War was won by resistance within the military, including fragging, and civilians pushing the government and of the course the incredible resilience and courage of the Vietnamese people” (Lois Thetford, 2017).
So, stay and fight is the message I’m getting. “Stand up, fight back” as the chant goes. And it all comes full circle. 40 years later and I’m chanting in the rain in downtown Seattle, site of my first protests. I’m finally showing up as an adult (startling the elders I recognize when I introduce myself to them), making waterproof protest signs, studying socialism and getting my feet wet (literally) in the frightening but necessary fight against fascism. Thanks for the pointers Mama.
Robin Boland is a Hillman City Resident and known as “little bird” to her friends.
featured image courtesy of Robin Boland