Tuesday, January 26, 2010


You don't have to tell me how depressed you are. I know, because I have sunk into the black depths, also. More troops sent to Afghanistan -- POW! No single payer, no public option -- ZAP! Republican conservative wins Kennedy seat in Massachusetts -- CRACK! Supreme Court okays corporate takeover of our political system -- BOP! And on and on the litany of assaults hits us in our minds, hearts and pocketbooks.

Gone the hopes for a new and better America. Gone the faith in a dazzling new, seemingly Progressive President. Gone the belief in the people's good sense. It seems so hopeless -- one wants to crawl into bed and pull the covers up and stay there. I know, I know.

BUT -- let's not. I'll tell you why. Fighting back not only fights the evil forces, it fights one's depression. I remember the day after W was re-elected for a second term. Talk about depression! The helpless, aching improbability of it -- we just wanted to give up, didn't we? I certainly did.

However, the day after his 2004 re-election was a Wednesday, the day every week that my group, Grandmothers Against the War, with an assist from the Granny Peace Brigade and some Veterans for Peace, holds a peace vigil in front of Rockefeller Center. We'd been doing it without missing a single Wednesday for almost a year. So, in order to sustain our spotless attendance record, I had to go despite my lethargy, my sadness, my utter misery. The other people standing on Fifth Avenue with me were equally distressed and ready to give up the struggle. You've never seen so many long faces.

Then, an amazing thing happened. As we stood there with our peace signs and banners, the black clouds in our minds began to waft away. Slowly, we began to smile and chatter with our usual good spirits. By the end of the vigil, we were practically jubilant. Nothing had changed -- the grim reality was still the fact that the worst President in history was going to head the government for another four years and reap hideous injustices and catastrophes. But, WE had changed. We had decided to press on and continue battling for our issues.

It was clear that in the act of fighting back, we were able to banish our hopeless feelings. The psychiatrists say that depression is repressed anger. Maybe there's something to that theory. Certainly, in our case it seemed to be at least partly true. By taking action, we were in a sense expressing our anger -- but in a constructive way.

The nation survived that crisis, and ultimately things turned around -- a bit. We got a President who is both a Democrat and a black man. We put a Democratic majority in the Senate. It's true that these promising steps have not yet produced hardly any of the progressive reforms that we envisioned, but I think we could agree that we moved a little bit forward.

All right, we've fallen back. Big time. But, isn't that the pattern of history? I'm no historian, so I can only refer to things that have happened in my lifetime. For instance, the war to end all wars -- that didn't. The war to end poverty --that didn't. The liberals followed by the neocons followed by the liberals followed by the neocons. It seems there is no such thing as lasting progress. But, that mustn't defeat us.

Instead, let's pick ourselves up, yet again, dust ourselves off, and get back into the arena. We may not yet save the planet, we may not yet save our economy, we may not yet save our democratic institutions...but at least we'll save our sanity.

And maybe, just maybe, we'll inch forward more than we slip backward.

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