Friday, May 12, 2006

Mother's Day

It was a Monday much like any other. The President had recently appointed a military general to take over spying on American citizens accused of no crime, while the Congressionally-demanded Justice Department investigation into illegal spying was abandoned after the NSA refused to give investigators security clearance.

A diplomatic overture from a large, self-respecting Middle Eastern nation was sh--canned by the Secretary of State. In Iraq, another Hummer convoy of poor volunteer Army grunts was ambushed, flipping a Hummer, killing five Americans, and wounding three Iraqi women and eight Iraqi children in a nearby apartment.

In Guantanamo Bay, a U.S. military police officer finished cleaning the genital clips from last night’s interrogation, and another man with no knowledge of anything was led back into the cell for his fifty-fourth round of electric shocks in four-and-a-half years, while the Pentagon published a new set of interrogation rules announcing that some torture was bad, but some torture was okay, and that individual humans have rights but at the American President’s sole discretion.

All over the country, little old women squinted at their Medicare brochures, and punched at tiny calculators with arthritic hands, trying to decide which plan would let them eat and take their medicine.

In classrooms from Detroit to East St. Louis, black children shuffled at their desks with no books, paper or pencils, the monotony broken only by potty breaks in drafty rooms full of chipped tiles, dripping pipes, rusted sinks, malfunctioning toilets, and hardware in the floor where the stalls used to be.

In an Exxon-Mobil boardroom in Dallas, suited men with glittering cuff-links cheered their world-record-shattering quarterly profit earnings, again. They toasted each other with whiskeys from the little table in the corner, ice clinking against the sides of the cut glass.

In suburban homes from North Plainfield, New Jersey, to Muncie, Indiana, to Everett, Washington and Bisbee Arizona, men and women were getting ready for work. Housewives were plopping fat babies into high chairs for their morning cereal. Fathers with stay-at-home wives were in the showers, shaving and pondering the best route through the traffic to work. Working mothers were already on the road to daycare, eating drive-through breakfasts loaded with fat and cholesterol, and trying not to spill black coffee on themselves.

But in a tiny cul-de-sac, in a suburban development outside Minneapolis, things were not so rosy. Two women – Edith and Joanne – sat at Joanne’s kitchen table.

“Enough,” Edith said.

“I agree,” Joanne replied.

So they stood up in their sweats, and loaded their babies in their strollers, gathered up their older children, and marched out the door.

At first, it looked just like any other pair of women out for their morning power walk. But when Edith and Joanne turned out of the cul-de-sac, right into the middle of the two-lane highway into the Minneapolis commercial district, a few cars had to swerve to miss them, and the drivers honked angrily. Edith and Joanne, and their children, stuck to the middle of the road and flipped the bird at the drivers.

Their friend Maria passed them on the way to the hospital, where she worked as a nurse. She pulled over and rolled down her window.

“Whatcha up to?”

“We’ve had enough!” Joanne shouted back. “We’re going to Washington DC, and we’re going to shut down the entire country to get there. We’re going to pull every last Congressman and Senator and Commander in Chief and Cabinet member and White House staffer and judicial clerk out of their offices and onto the streets, and slap them silly and leave them in the dirt. Then we’re taking over their offices, since they only use them to fornicate with corporate executives on our backs anyway!”

“That’s right!” Edith yelled. “We’re going to pass the Community Gardening Act of 2006, and fund neighborhood gardens on every block in America. We’re going to pass the Universal Health Care Act of 2006, and fund neighborhood clinics on every block in America. We’re going to pass the Small Classes, Well Paid Teachers, Full Libraries Act of 2006, and fund neighborhood schools on every block in America! And every school will have free drop-in day care centers for kids under the age of 5, so moms can think about stuff and do stuff!”

By this time, Maria had climbed out of her car and joined Edith and Joanne, because they hadn’t stopped walking when they started talking, and she wanted to hear more. Maria opened her cell phone and called her friend Tawana, a reporter at the local television station. “And bring your camera,” Maria said into the phone, before snapping it shut.

Edith was still yelling.

“We’re going to pass the No Cars, Yes Buses, Trams and Trains Act of 2006, and fund short distance public transportation between schools, clinics, libraries, parks, grocery stores, churches and homes in every town in America!”

“Yeah!” Joanne yelled back. “We’re going to ban private cars for everything except ambulances, fire trucks, and handicapped vanpools! We’re going to bring the troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan! We’re going to pass to Do Unto Others Act of 2006, and make the Golden Rule the only rule in foreign policy!”

The traffic was piling up behind Joanne, Edith, Maria and Tawana when they finally turned off the two-lane highway, onto the entrance ramp to Eastbound 280. Then the honking really started up, as a line of cars six miles long backed up behind the women and their strollers. On they marched.

Meanwhile, Tawana was beaming footage of the mothers and children back to her television station, which was feeding it to stations all over the America, and all over the Internet. In towns large and small, other women – nurses and teachers, housekeepers and office workers, lawyers and doctors, accountants and steelworkers, seamstresses and electricians – set down their tools, picked up their children, and walked outside.

In prisons all over the land, women guards hefted their keychains and punched in their security codes, and let all the prisoners out. The black men, the Hispanic men, the poor white men, and the women prisoners marched home, and their mamas slapped them upside the head and said:

“I melted your guns and your jewelry. Quit attacking other poor folks like yourself, and let’s go get the a—holes in Washington!” So they did, and the police officers joined them as they went.

I-80, I-95, I-10, every Interstate Highway, and every feeder highway, became hopelessly snarled. The women hopped out of their cars and headed up to join the marchers. Some of the men did too. The other men sat in their cars, listened to the radio, and tried to think of what they would do without cheap gas, with no stupid job to go to, no leafblowers and weedwhackers and power tools to play with. No crappy boss’s butt to kiss.

Back on the road in Indiana, Maria was yelling to the latest recruit.

“We’ve had enough! We’re going to pass the Do What You Want, You’re Not Lazy Act of 2006, and fully fund art and woodworking studios, writer’s workshops, eco-home-building centers, solar panel factories and other good workplaces in every neighborhood in America.”

“Plus,” Tawana chimed in, “Plus we’re going to pass the F--- Your Own Bootstraps Act of 2006, and ban the use of that stupid phrase, except for people who want to make fun of the bad old days!”

“We’re going to pass the Communal Cooking Act of 2006,” yelled Susan, a Cincinnati postal worker. “We’re going to put neighborhood kitchens on every block in America!”

“We’re going to pass the Tree Planting Bonanza Act of 2006, and dig up every parking lot in the country, and plant trees on them!” shouted Peggy, a Pennsylvania horticulturalist.

Joanne and Edith and all their followers turned south on I-95 and walked along the side of the highway, past all the stopped cars and trucks. On her cell phone, Maria was watching footage of the f---ups in Washington, burning up their papers, running out into the streets, bumping into each other, screaming, tearing out their hair, and then disappearing into holes in the ground.

She was watching footage of mothers in Bhopal, India carrying their children to New Delhi to throw out the f---ups there. She was watching footage of mothers in Darfur, strapping their babies to their backs and marching out of the refugee camps to throw out the f---ups in Khartoum.

Everywhere, everywhere, mothers and children and the women and men who supported them, were taking over, and building up, and moving forward. Everywhere.


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