Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Reviving America

There was a young woman in our town recently, Alex Svoboda. [...] She was badly beaten by the police in North Providence when she was protesting for some workers who weren't receiving their human rights. And I’m actually friends of her parents. They live here in Lincoln. And I saw the pictures of her, you know, sitting on the ground with her leg twisted behind her. And I know how long she’s been in the hospital in the ICU and have heard wrenching stories from her parents. And it reminded me of this story--I don't know if you remember it--that James Baldwin told. But he had left this country, didn't care for America. It wasn't good to blacks, and it wasn’t good to gay men. And he had moved to Paris, where he was having a great time, very respected, very admired. He never planned to come back to the States. And then the Birmingham bombing occurred, and he said he would return to the States and work for civil rights. And his line, which I remember very well, is “I will not let the Civil Rights Movement be carried on the back of four-year-old girls.” And so, another influence for me in the last couple weeks, thinking about my decision, was I was thinking about Alex Svoboda, this young idealistic girl who’s trying to protect workers from working a hundred hours a week for less than minimum wage and about her lying in a hospital all broken up. And I was thinking it’s not fair that we ask our twenty-year-olds to do all the fighting. We sixty-year-olds, we people who have a little authority, we should be on the front lines with these issues. [...]

For everyone in America, I have a different agenda, and that is, at some point in this country we all started to feel hopeless, and we all started to think that there was really nothing we could do, that we were too weak and we were too small and we just had to lie down and let the government and the different forces that were knocking us down just roll right over us. And my own feeling about that is, the best antidote to that kind of despair is get to work. And I believe everybody in America has something important they can do that will make a difference. And so, that's what I really want to see happen.

I’ve had a lot of young people come up to me -- in fact, I’ve had calls from all over the world by now, and everybody is saying, “What you did gave me hope.” And I think what every one of us does gives other people hope. And we can all do that. And we can start to regain our belief in this country as a competent country, as a decent country, as the beacon on the hill that it’s been historically now for 300 years.

Excerpt of interview with Dr. Mary Pipher, author of Reviving Ophelia

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