of plastic shields and impenetrable helmets: an improbable american summer
mothers reach for what they need. mothers reach for amulets and gear, paraphernalia and patron saints, to protect their children. it’s an impulse as ancient as time. and will go on till the end of time. of that i am certain.
a mother’s wiring drives me, has driven me now for the better part of 28 years, ever since the doctor told me, incontrovertibly, with the swishing heartsounds of the sonogram echoing wall-to-wall across the darkened tiny room — nine months after the heartache of losing our first — that a life stirred within.
ever since, my first and last impulse, above all, is to keep him safe. to shield life and limb, and cranium too, from incoming assault, be it playground invective, asphalt bike path, high-speed hardball, or any of the fully-pictured atrocities that have played — and replayed — in my too-colorful head.
it is dystopian, at least, that this summer i’ve found myself clicking “buy” on a two-pack of plastic shields, the better to keep the red-ringed virus at bay when a boy i love is flying hither and yon, criss-crossing america at altitudes of 35,000 feet. tuesday night, he dons it for the second time, as he flies from JFK to PDX, that’s new york to portland, oregon, about as long a flight as the american continent offers.
and PDX is where the impenetrable helmet comes in. ever since i started reading reports of unidentified federal forces cruising portland’s downtown streets, driving unmarked vehicles, plucking protestors from sidewalks, stuffing them in vans, without word of miranda rights or where or why on earth they were taking them (leaving some to fear to god they were literally being kidnapped by bands of who knows who), i started thinking about helmets. about what my firstborn might put on his not insignificant head to keep it from getting bashed with the wrong end of a police baton, or any other unidentified thrashing implement.
mind you, it’s not that i worry my firstborn will soon be leaping into the late-night protest. it’s that he’ll be walking to and fro to work. to and from a federal courthouse, as it so happens (though not the one at the epicenter of all the melee; his is the other federal courthouse, two blocks north and west). and in this american summer, in a city besieged by federal forces wielding tear gas canisters and “less-than-lethal” (thank god for modifiers here) weapons, a mother starts considering the selling points and perqs of various impenetrable protective head gear.
which is utterly dystopian, improbable in any other summer than the one that is the america of 2020, a year decidedly not clear-focused. and it makes me think of the litany of mothers who through time have had to send off sons and daughters, who’ve awaited letters, answered the ominous knock at the door, as my own grandmother did, when her son was killed in a midnight ambush on iwo jima. it makes me think of the south side chicago mothers who cannot count on the windows of their minivans to shield the incoming bullets, the ones killing toddlers — even babies; a five-month-old shot just last week in old town — strapped in car seats.
there are mothers weeping across america, across this globe, and the tears seem endless, are endless. will the weeping and the wailing ever, ever end? do we stand a chance to finally stanch the sorrow?
mothers shouldn’t have to plot the surest bullet-free path to school. nor which playlot might prove lethal. children shouldn’t have to spend their summers behind closed curtains, in the corner of a room farthest from the picture window, where crossfire could soar in. mothers shouldn’t have to lay awake nights imagining the phone call, calculating how long it would take to race to the ICU bedside. mothers shouldn’t have to hear the click of the coffin closing.
this is no easy summer in america.
short of searching the internet for plastic shields and bash-proof helmets, we’ve got work to do here in the land of the brave and the free.
america is crying. are we listening? are we doing what we must?
and those my friends are the questions, the imperative questions: are we listening? are we doing what we must?
This is, indeed, no easy summer in america. and mothers should not have to plot safe passage for their children, whether the 7 yr old is walking three blocks to school through a crime ridden neighborhood or walking to a federal courthouse with the intention of supporting justice.
I would like to give a shout out to Portland’s Wall of Moms — white women who have asked the BLM organizers how they can best help and have stood, at BLM’s request, between the BLM protesters and the federal agents. I would also like to add that fathers have been doing their part. Fathers Against Fascism have come to the rallies equipped with hockey sticks and leaf blowers which they have used to slap tear gas canisters back at the dispensing agents and to blow the tear gas away from those rallying.
It all gives one hope. As one of the Wall of Moms organizers said on the radio yesterday, if a parent were at the beach and someone else’s child was drowning, we would not stand by. So, too, they are not just standing by while other people’s children are killed for driving/walking/sleeping while black.
In every dystopia, there is inspiring resistance. May we be strong enough to support it.
amen, and total shoutout to the mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, aunts, uncles, glorious bystanders and friends in arms (as in linked arms, the kinds with elbows that stretch the arms, and hands with fingers that clasp another’s hand). there was no more glorious a sight this week than those lumpy-bodied, crepe-papery legions in their yellow t-shirts, standing in protection, taking the teargas front and center.
love your penultimate sentence” “in every dystopia, there is inspiring resistance.”
leaving this here, in case anyone wanders by and needs a dose of pure oxygen.
by Naomi Shihab Nye
A man crosses the street in rain,
stepping gently, looking two times north and south,
because his son is asleep on his shoulder.
No car must splash him.
No car drive too near to his shadow.
This man carries the world’s most sensitive cargo
but he’s not marked.
Nowhere does his jacket say FRAGILE,
HANDLE WITH CARE.
His ear fills up with breathing.
He hears the hum of a boy’s dream
deep inside him.
We’re not going to be able
to live in this world
if we’re not willing to do what he’s doing
with one another.
The road will only be wide.
The rain will never stop falling.
Naomi Shahib Nye, “Shoulders” from Red Suitcase.
🪑 🪑 🪑 🪑 🪑
🪑 🪑 🪑 🪑 🪑
🪑 🪑🪑🪑 🪑🪑🪑 🪑🪑🪑🪑
u p a c h a i r AND FEEL THE LOVE ♥️
at this table!! (I feel it!!!)
Tell us aaaaaaaaall about it
thirsty? to connect! 🪑!!
The ‘🪑‘ is safe ~~ filled with sounds of LOVE
Let me know if u need more 🪑s !
42 in all. You can keep ‘em sweetheart♥️
Hmmmm 33 ARRANGED chairs that
spelled P U L L… 🪑appens sometimes.
It’s like the algo RHYTHM said 🪑a!!
Like 52 card pick-up, but 33 c🪑air
shuffle! Gotta 🪑ave a sense o 🪑umor.