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Eugene Weekly : Viewpoint : 11.17.11




Threatened? Yell No!

A mother’s uncivil disobedience

My friend Ann looked up from shopping to see her 7-year-old leave with a stranger. The man had followed them from a restaurant where waiters interview children on their birthdays. Later, at a big-box store, Ann left Sarah in “Toys.” Armed with key details, the well-dressed man approached. “Thank goodness I found you, Sarah! Mommy’s tummy hurts from lunch, and she asked me to take you to Aunt Jen’s for your party.”

Like Sarah, I was taught to obey adults. Now a mother, I teach my children a more nuanced approach: Obey trusted adults. Ignore others — or, if necessary, flee. To explain why adults might need running from, I say, “Some people are unhealthy and can’t consider your best interests,” or, if pressed, “They might adopt you without asking.”

Who are my children’s “trusted adults?” My husband and I, of course. Though we run a dictatorship, it’s benign, most days anyway, and represents our children’s best interests. We provide basics, carefully timed luxury upgrades — defined by us as Prince Pücklers, by them as Disneyland — and a complaint forum. Their impassioned campaigns train them for the democracy they’ll transition to at 18.

But then what? To help my children know who to trust, I teach discernment. Don’t wire money to displaced African princes. Study politicians to discover whose interests they protect. Be suspicious of the apparent sincerity and allure of corporate representatives since, as Ann found, even the well-dressed can be deadly. Call me old-fashioned, but my interests include healthy soil and oceans, because I like eating. Drinking clean water and breathing rank high, too. But our economic system threatens everything I love.

I’d rather not hand my kids a charred planet to live on, so I’ve done my part. Politely. I’ve recycled, carpooled and begged leaders to stop clearcuts and torture. I’ve visualized peace. I voted for the “change” president. Yet, the Supreme Court, nine judges-for-life we can’t fire, dealt our democracy a staggering blow when it affirmed corporate personhood, allowing unlimited and anonymous campaign financing. Citizens seeking a healthy future battle a Goliath on steroids.

I feel like a mother watching her children’s abduction by well-heeled predators. I might be accused of hysteria, comparing corporate marauders to child murderers. But what should I call those who destroy the planet that keeps my kids alive? I am hysterical. That’s appropriate when your child — or planet — is under siege.

When Ann saw her daughter disappear, she screamed, “STOP HIM!” Guards materialized who didn’t leap to her aid — sure you’re not mistaken, ma’am? — so she elbowed them aside. Shoppers froze. As the kidnapper reached his car, Ann, still shrieking, grabbed her daughter. Guards didn’t tackle him or get his license plate. Instead, they tried to quiet Ann. Police later said a man matching his description was wanted for murdering several girls. He was never caught.



Mainstream commentators posing as trusted adults would have us dismiss the outcry from Occupy Wall Street. I quiz my children: Who gains from mocking peaceful demonstrators? Who benefits from silencing them for business as usual? If corporate interests didn’t dominate, mainstream media would listen to citizens upset enough to camp downtown shouting, “STOP!” It would scrutinize an economic system gone postal.

When Occupy Wall Street refused to leave Zuccotti Park, something remarkable happened. Overnight, 951 solidarity marches were organized throughout the world, including an ongoing occupation in Eugene. That’s the visibility Americans enjoy. Disobedience with nonviolence and resonance can instantly gain international momentum. So when friends quietly despair over their kids’ futures and our powerlessness, I disagree. Because of the high stakes — the planet’s very ability to sustain life — our voices have never mattered more. Few in history have possessed our potential for influencing world events. As Americans we have rights, for now anyway, that millions only dream of, yet most of us stand paralyzed, bewildered witnesses to wholesale abduction.

The world listens. If we make noise, disobey. If we get hysterical, damn it, the 99 percent of the world has our backs. Because they’re hysterical, too.

It’s time to leave our comfort zones. It’s time to disobey. We can unplug, stop shopping, put up tents — real or metaphorical — and end business as usual. Demand tight bank regulations and corporate personhood’s repeal. Call flash mobs around CEOs who oil up our oceans. Forgo the bathroom or boob remodel and fund wake-up campaigns instead. Re-create democracy. Grab megaphones and invade the mall. Run for mayor, Senate, president. Turn lawns, cars, office doors, Facebook pages, and bodies into billboards shouting “NO!” Because, like predators, some people — and policies — are unhealthy and must be stopped.

Ann disobeyed. She created a spectacle. Her daughter lives.

Media pundits may trick many into believing we’re dismissable. But remember what we tell our kids: If threatened, disobey. Yell “NO!” Tell trusted adults.

Better yet, become one.

Award-winning writer Mary DeMocker teaches folk and classical harp and has pursued creative disobedience in Eugene for 23 years. View photos of her current lawn installation at marydemocker.com