Guest Blog: Asha the Activist

September 18, 2010

Last month, I spotted Asha and daughter Hazel at the anti-fracking demonstration before Andrew Cuomo's visit to Ithaca. Silly Asha. You all should know better than to let me catch you doing anything interesting. I'll make you blog about it!

Political activism has been a way of life for my family since before I was born.  My mom got kicked out of her first college for participating in the lunch counter sit-ins in Chattanooga, TN in the early sixties.  Around the same time, my dad went on a 30-day hunger strike in support of a professor who lost his job over his opposition to the Bay of Pigs.  Together they landed in Tanzania, where my dad fulfilled his alternative service because he wouldn’t serve in Vietnam.  After returning to the States, they ended up in Washington, DC with my dad working for the national Quaker lobbying group, Friends Committee for National Legislation.

As Quakers, my parents believed deeply in the importance of service and activism.  I worked in soup kitchens, got toted to big protest marches on the Mall, performed in children’s musicals about nuclear disarmament, tried to get myself arrested in front of the South African Embassy protesting apartheid when I was thirteen.  As a college student, I could always call my parents if there was going to be a big protest in DC, knowing they’d open their doors.  The conversations would go something like this:

“Hi, Mom.  I was thinking of coming home for the march this weekend with a couple of friends.  Would that be okay?”

“How many is a couple?”

“Um, about 17?”

“Sure, we’ll pack them in like sardines.”

They would welcome everyone and get up the day of to cook an enormous breakfast, which we would eat on the living room floor while my dad lectured about the importance of non-violent direct action in social change.

After college I moved to Seattle and got involved in the Cuban solidarity movement, leading me to travel to Cuba twice.  I was also in Seattle for the first big US protests of the WTO, marching and working with the Independent Media Center there to get the word out about what was really happening on the street.

My activism in Seattle increasingly surrounded me with people who were angry and uninterested in pacifism, causing me to become increasingly ambivalent about non-violence and unhappy with my life. It began to wear on my soul, this constant rage surrounding me, this constant asserting of “No!” with no offer of a viable, alternative “Yes!” So, when my soon-to-be husband announced her wanted to be an organic farmer I agreed to walk away from all of it and work on building something positive. Something that could be the world-changing, viable “yes” for me and mine.

Now we have two children, the oldest of whom is 7 ½, and the question of getting back to activism is starting to come up.  We’ve always talked very explicitly about why we live where we do, why we farm the way we do, why we eat the way we do, so she would understand the reasons why our life is different than many of her friends at school and most of our family.  I can attest to it being easier to be a freak if there’s a higher purpose.  We also always talk honestly about race, class and sexual orientation so that, even though she’s not growing up in a terribly diverse place, she understands that not everyone in the world is like her, nor should they be.

In the last year we’ve gotten involved in the anti-hydrofracking effort in the region and have been talking about it a lot in the house and with our local family.  Hazel is smart, very observant, a good listener, so she’s been asking questions and working through what she thinks about it.  Mostly she just doesn’t understand why other people don’t get that we have to protect the land that we live on, that provides our food and water.  Our land is such an immediate part of her daily life that she can’t imagine that anyone else wouldn’t have that same relationship to the Earth.

I have been trying to encourage her to think about all of this and develop her own opinion on it while also discouraging her from getting really stressed about it.  I can see her spinning up into worry that bad things will happen to our home and I know how that feels.  I had nightmares about nuclear war as a kid because of all the talk around our house, and I don’t think it was healthy.  The only thing to do, though, seemed to be to encourage her to do something about it rather than just worry.  So, I took her to her first protest.

We went to the anti-fracking rally before Andrew Cuomo’s recent gubernatorial campaign stop in Ithaca.  I didn’t know how she would handle the whole thing but she was a champ.  She stood, holding her sign, through the whole rally without a fuss, so I suggested we go see Cuomo speak at the Women’s Community Building.  She sat patiently for an hour in the auditorium while we waited for him to speak and then, when he started talking, she pinned her No Fracking button to her stuffed animal’s belly, and stood up (in a room full of sitting adults) and held it over her head.  She also insisted we go speak to Cuomo at the end to tell him he needs to protect our well and our land.

We spent a bunch of time talking about the whole thing when we got home.  I explained the concept of elected representatives and that Cuomo was trying to get elected to represent us but that he couldn’t represent us if he doesn’t know what we want.  I told her that part of living in a participatory democracy means that you have to tell the government what you want and fight for what you believe in.  This made perfect sense to her and she got really excited about writing him a letter to tell him what she thinks about fracking.  She went on and on about our land and our water and then she added, “And Mommy, in the PS can you tell him that he also needs to let everybody that loves each other get married?”

Clearly, my girl’s on a roll and she’s focused on what means the most- loving the land, loving each other, fairness and speaking up.  And she feels that by speaking up she can make a difference.  It’s all I could ask for.

-Asha for the Goose


2 Responses to “Guest Blog: Asha the Activist”

  1. What an awesome guest commentator!
    I hope everyone begins to focus on the upcoming elections and issues that are important to their family.

  2. Diana Says:

    This is beautiful, and so mirrors what I want for my daughter!

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