The last time I eagerly uttered those words, it was the spring of 2003. I was living in Lansing, Michigan. I was in my early twenties living with other white people who were also in their early twenties.
A typical Friday night for us was sharing a meal, inexpensive wine, and stories. We were all left of the center. And, we all agreed that George W. Bush was not our president.
On the day, in March 2003, when Dubya declared war against Iraq, it was one of these wine nights. We sat around our friend’s small living room around their even smaller television. Some on the floor; some on the couch. I felt like the TV was so close it could touch our noses. The live declaration was announced, and suddenly our country was launched into war, despite lack of congressional approval.
The last declared war I had heard in my lifetime, was by Dubya’s father. I was in 7th grade. I remember calling my early teenage boyfriend, aghast, that our country would send young men to their death. I have relatives that have served, many proudly. Many who have been affected by some sort of “shell shock” or now “post-traumatic stress disorder”. Why would we willingly send loved ones to “fight for our freedoms” when they came back broken and hardly free of acquired demons? The irony was not lost on me, and the only conclusion I drew then, and now, was that there has to be another way.
I was living with a group that also felt there had to be another way, so we did the next best thing we could think of. We participated in what was called the largest ignored protest. We made signs. We marched. We chanted. We felt validated in our questions by surrounding ourselves with other like minded left of the center, socialists. I joined a group, The Greater Lansing Area Network Against the War in Iraq (GLANAWI for short). How can this be happening in my lifetime? Didn’t we learn the lessons of WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam? Apparently not.
And there was a chasm – support our president because it’s the right thing to do… Or?
Have you ever had a boss you thought was out to lunch? Maybe this boss was even chosen by a bunch of smart people. Yet, you watch them railroad meeting after meeting and shoot down idea after idea. You watch them fail to listen, repeatedly, and you see this is why they are not succeeding. You see them handle communication awkwardly, or not at all. You see how they make staff divisive, instead of loyal. And, then, you watch them lie.
I’ve had a few bosses like this. And, when my friends and I watched Dubya, that’s what it felt like. Clearly a clever man for having reached the presidency, but how could he be making so many poor choices? How could he be sending people he’s never met to their sudden death under the guise of freedom?
And, there, I was validated again – our role was to question. Our role is to never stop asking questions. If we don’t understand something, our job, with all respect, is to ask questions and never stop asking questions until we get satisfactory answers. And, even then, we can’t stop. Our job is to push them to be their best. Even when their egos are so inflated they cannot see that we are truly helping them because we do believe in a greater America. We believe that we can be our best selves and this is not it.
When I was in my early twenties, we declared our message through childish posters drawn and hung around our craftsman, duplex, bungalow. Now, I write in this forum, and I actively question and challenge when face to face. I’ve learned some things about interrupting oppressions, and I use those strategies with a guarded heart.
Join me in questioning. We deserve to live in an America that truly does embrace all, all of us with our warts, our varied colors, and our varied ways of doing this thing called life. No one person is more important than another, and we all have an important role to play. You matter. I matter. We matter, and our job is to remind them that we matter. And we will not shut up until they listen.