In a recent blog entry (which you can read here), I listed the things that I would like this site to be. One thing I mentioned is that I would like for it to stay as politically neutral as possible.
You see, I believe that political beliefs tend to be far too polarizing and divisive. I know, you’re rolling your eyes at me and saying, “No shit, Spry!” Yeah, well…I know. But, here is the thing – I have lots of friends at all points of the political spectrum – from the furthest to the left to the furthest to the right. Pick a point in between and I can name some friends who firmly sit in that spot. And I very, very rarely tell people where I fall – because, like it or not, there are people who will let their perception of me be tainted or tilted or turned based on having that information. I’ll say this much…I’m not easy to pin down. (I know, I know. Please be kind if you choose to comment – and be conscious of how that information alters your perception of me.)
Now, all of that being said, the purpose of this post is NOT meant to be political.
No, really, it’s not.
The word at oneword.com today is “demonstration”. It’s a good word. And it’s a word that has gotten quite a lot of use in the recent past. Demonstration, protest, occupy…I’m sure there are a few more in there. I’m not here to take sides on any of the recent movements.
No, really, I’m not.
Let me see if I can plot out my train of thought.
The word “demonstration” immediately had the speech teacher in me think of demonstration speeches. (Yeah, I’m a dork.) But that immediately gave way to thinking of the word in a more likely way – a public display of emotion or belief. Of course, this immediately brought to mind many of the more recent demonstrations that we’ve observed and/or participated in. (I really hate that I ended that sentence with a preposition.)
Here in Chicago, we are preparing for the NATO Summit in May. (We don’t have to prepare for the G8 Summit anymore. I might be one of the only people around Chicago who is actually glad that it was pulled. I really didn’t want to have to deal with that traffic. For the record, I’m one of the few who was glad when we lost the Olympic bid – for the same reasons.) Many demonstrations and protests are expected during the NATO Summits. Many.
I thought, “It’s great that we have the right to demonstrate and that these demonstrations can bring about social and political change.”
There have been many protests and demonstrations in history that have been highly successful. The one that stood out in my mind, however, was the Suffrage Movement.
Okay, I think School House Rock simplified it a little, don’t you? But I loved SHR when I was growing up – even if they didn’t always get it right.
Here we are in an election year. Of course, that means that this particular entry is in no way original. Nope, not original at all. That’s okay, I’ll own that. There are a lot of things in this world that aren’t original. Think about it – are there really any truly original ideas anymore? (There are two re-tellings of the Snow White story coming out this year. Not one. TWO. And how many more movies can we make that are based on novels or comic books or other movies? At what point did we become “sequel happy”?)
Lack of originality aside, I think it’s still important.
It was not until 1920 that women in the United States were allowed to vote. That’s less than 100 years ago. I’ve always had the right to vote – as have those of you who are reading this. But my grandmother, when she was born, did not have that right. She did by the time she was of voting age – and she voted in every election until the day she died – but women were still fighting for that right while Gram was a child. This isn’t some distant ancestor of mine. This is my grandmother who just passed away 2 1/2 years ago. Amazing.
One of the things I’ve learned over the years is that I haven’t learned enough. Another “No shit, Spry” moment, right? (Those of you who really know me: NO comments from the peanut gallery!)
I find that my education was a bit lacking. That is not to say that I had a bad education. No. I’m not saying that at all. My high school education was excellent. However, by enrolling in the AP and “advanced” classes, I find that I missed out on learning about history. I was taking “Current Events” or “World Affairs” rather than American History.
I was gypped.
So, most of my knowledge about American history comes from my own studies or interests. Much of it came from my graduate studies as well – in Rhetoric, of all classes.
When I first saw the movie Iron Jawed Angels, I was really rather in awe. First, because I’m always in awe of Hilary Swank. (Well, except in Buffy, The Vampire Slayer – the movie. That was bad.) But also because I wasn’t truly aware of the tortures these women endured. Sure, it’s easy for us to say how proud we are that these women struggled for our rights – “we stand on the shoulders of giants” and all that. But, wow.
They. Were. Tortured.
And they did so willingly.
I’m a wimp.
I have absolutely no doubt that great parts of this movie were highly dramatized. But, you know what? They got the important stuff right. This movie inspired me to do a bit more reading about Alice Paul, Lucy Burns, Ida Wells-Barnett, and others. Am I now an expert on all things Suffrage? Certainly not. But I have a better appreciation of what it means to have the right to vote.
I have no excuse for not exercising this right. I am able bodied. I am able minded.
In order to fully exercise this right, I also must be informed. It is my responsibility to learn the issues. It is my responsibility to find out where politicians stand on the issues. It is my responsibility to examine politicians’ track records. It is my responsibility to hold politicians accountable. It is my responsibility to hold myself accountable.
This responsibility does NOT rest on the news media. This responsibility does NOT rest on links and pithy comments and humorous photoshopped graphics on my friends’ Facebook walls. This responsibility does NOT rest on the people who walk door to door tying to get us to vote for their candidates.
This responsibility rests with me.
This responsibility rests with you.
Consider all sides.
Don’t demonized those with a different political label – learn about them and learn from them.
Make informed decisions.
Happy Women’s History Month.