I was nominated for an award named after Maria Leavey this year. I didn’t win, but that’s OK, because in reading about Maria, I recognized aspects of so many of the women (and some men) who work day after day to make a difference, including the lack of resources and reduced circumstances under which they toil.
So I made a video. It's called "What Would Maria Do?" I made it because I want you to know about the women who create, write, speak, march, and who make a difference, no matter how small, and who inspire me to keep on keeping on.
At Kos, many of these women have been maligned and questioned, ignored and celebrated. I ask you all to note that as uncomfortable as some of the tactics these women use may make you feel, that good Moms do not always provide comfort. Sometimes they provide lessons.
Women who have raised children understand a lot about how to motivate them to do the right thing, as opposed to the easy thing, or the self-serving thing. Allow me, as a mom, to share some insight into that process:
Johnny, age 8, tells Mom he can’t possibly clean up the mess he has made, because if he stopped now to clean up, he would not finish his game and then his friend Freddy would be disappointed. Besides, he tells me, he is winning, or will be soon...
Mom response: "You have ten seconds to begin cleaning up. 9, 8, 7...."
Sally, age 14, tells Mom she does not have NEARLY enough clothes for summer and she needs a credit card to go to the Mall. Besides, her friends all have credit cards and THEIR parents let them charge as much as they want...
Mom response: "And you will be getting a job in which store?"
The United States government, age (almost) 211, tells all the Moms that their sons and daughters are needed to fight a war, that the kids will be fighting for freedom and to protect our vulnerable borders, and besides, they will take good care of them upon their safe return from battle...
Mom response: "WHAT noble cause???"
I live on Capitol Hill and have seen and been a part of many actions in which the clear message was delivered to Congress and the White House that the Iraq War is untenable and immoral, and must end NOW. Women and men have come from all over the country and the world to deliver the memo, in Lafayette Park, on the National Mall, in the halls of Congress, in offices and hearing rooms.
Other related messages are delivered as well: Health Care for All, Save Darfur, Save the Planet, Stop Torture, etc. Such critical feedback is part of good citizenry, just as critical feedback is essential for raising good citizens.
And yet, women are so often criticized for getting in the faces of lawmakers and asking questions, speaking out, and letting folks know how most of the people in this country feel. "Strident", we are called. "Let the process work", we are told. "They have their reasons", we are reminded.
Mom response: "While I have breath in my body, I will speak up. If not me, then who?"
Maria Leavey was not technically a Mom, but she knew how to get people off their butts doing the right thing. She could make some calls; she knew some people, she could get the story out there...
I ask you all to process the lesson inherent in the song that accompanies the video: Phil Och’s "When I’m Gone," especially this verse:
And I won't be laughing at the lies when I'm gone
And I can't question how or when or why when I'm gone
Can't live proud enough to die when I'm gone
So I guess I'll have to do it while I'm here
What would Maria do? She would be doing what she could, while she could. Which is what she did. Now it’s our turn. Are you ready to be effective?