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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Real Woman Are Born Fighting

KathyinBlacksburg, one of my favorite writers on Raising Kaine, wrote about some Democratic women who have given her and the Jim Webb campaign a hard time because of the “Born Fighting” logo that the campaign adopted. The logo was taken from Webb’s book by the same name about the history and heritage of the Scots-Irish. According to Kathy, some women object to what they perceive as the militaristic theme of Webb’s campaign.

I suspect their real objection is to the fact that Jim Webb is a former Marine and a graduate of the Naval Academy at Annapolis. In answer to their objection, I’d say that although I am pretty much anti-war when it comes to Iraq and I was also against the Vietnam War (I marched in a lot of anti-war demonstrations during those days), it’s time to grow up and realize that we don’t live in a perfect world. We need men and women willing to defend our country. That’s not the same as wanting to be aggressors who go looking for wars of choice. In fact, Jim Webb was an early opponent of the Iraqi war. And those who conceived of the notion of pre-emptive warfare were civilians who had never seen the inside of a military barrack, not the real soldiers.

Having said that, what exactly is wrong with being “born fighting” anyway? Although I mightily respect the Scots Irish that Webb wrote about – my husband is one of them – they are not the only ethnic group that has had to grow up fighting. In fact most of humanity has had to fight for every bit of economic or social justice they’ve ever won.

Here’s a quote to illustrate it:

“Pray for the dead. Fight like hell for the living.”
Wonder who said it? Was it some jingoist white man before blowing an Arab to smithereens in the Gulf?

No.

That quote came from Mother Jones, a labor icon who fought in the thick of many of the battles for working people to achieve economic and social justice. Born in Cork, Ireland, on August 1, 1837, she immigrated to Toronto, Canada, after the British killed her father, an Irish freedom fighter. Mother Mary Harris Jones was an organizer for the United Mineworkers Union and the Industrial Workers of the World, also known as the Wobblies. She organized children who worked at dangerous jobs in the coal mines and led several children’s strikes, where the young strikers carried signs saying “We Want Time to Play” and “We Want to Go to School,” which got the nation to focus on reforming child labor laws. She was a fierce warrior in the battles for workers’ justice. Mother Jones was in the thick of every major labor battle of the early 1900s. She was dubbed the mother of the labor movement and the Miner's Angel. She was born fighting.

If it weren’t for women with courage, daring and fighting spirit, every social justice movement would have been poorer and less effective. To be a warrior – to be born fighting – does not necessarily mean that you have to pick up a weapon, murder another human being, or extend the physical suffering of our fellow human beings. But it does mean standing up for injustice, risking personal comfort and even safety, and taking a stand for others.

A perfect example was Rosa Parks. She was a seamstress and maid who refused to give up her seat to a white person on a bus in segregated Montgomery, Alabama one day in 1955.

Back in the 50s in much of the South buses were segregated with the front reserved for white people. But when the buses got crowded, blacks were also required to give up their seats in the back to whites. There were cases of pregnant black women having to stand so young white men could sit. And in some cases, when there was no room left, blacks had to get off a bus to make room for white passengers. Yet they paid the same fare as whites did. One day Rosa Parks, long active in the early Civil Rights movement, had had enough of the injustice and decided to challenge it. When ordered to give up her seat, she refused and was arrested for it. Here is how she described what she did and why:

“People always say that I didn't give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn't true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.

I did not want to be mistreated, I did not want to be deprived of a seat that I had paid for. It was just time... there was opportunity for me to take a stand to express the way I felt about being treated in that manner. I had not planned to get arrested. I had plenty to do without having to end up in jail. But when I had to face that decision, I didn't hesitate to do so because I felt that we had endured that too long. The more we gave in, the more we complied with that kind of treatment, the more oppressive it became”

She has been called the Mother of the Civil Rights Movement. And she was born fighting.

In more modest ways, so are most women who get involved in politics.

Every woman who ever carried around a petition on a cold day in March to get signatures so her candidate could be on the ballot was born fighting. Every woman who ever worked a phone bank or canvassed door to door to win an election was born fighting. And every woman who ever marched on a blazing hot day in Selma, Alabama, or a freezing cold day in Washington, DC or New York City or anyplace else for a cause was born fighting. Cindy Sheehan setting up Camp Casey in Crawford, Texas was born fighting. And so were all the brave women in the union movement, the anti-war movement, the Civil Rights movement. You don’t have to pick up a gun to be born fighting. But you have to have courage, be willing to suffer for what you believe is right, and you have to say a resounding yes to justice.

Any woman who has a problem with that probably wouldn’t vote for Jim Webb anyway.

7 comments:

Mosquito said...

EXCELLENT Post...I so agree with you!!

I've always loved that quote..."Pray for the dead. Fight like hell for the living!"

We have so many fighting "women" to honor.....

It "amazes" me that anyone who is anti-war would even "think" of supporting a chickenhawk like Allen...especially since hundreds of thousands of needless deaths have occurred BECAUSE of Chichkenhawks in Power.

Thanks for this!!
Buzz Buzz...M

K said...

The problem with the "born fighting" line is its ambiguity.

Does it mean militarism, of the George Bush/Neocon testosterone-driven let's go to war and throw America's weight around stamp? If so, it's not at all the image most Democrats want to see.

But if it means organizing, working, and fighting (in a non-violent way) for a cause, if it's the Mother Jones-style activist definition, then it's a good line.

So, for sure, a less ambiguous phrase might have appealed to more people without driving off so many who hear the words "born fighting" and think of death and destruction rather than right and enlightenment.

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

Thanks Mosquito. And K, I've thought about your words too. I'm going to do another post on it that will, hopefully, answer you better.

AddieH said...

I agree and disagree in one breath. I don't really have an argument against the "Born Fighting" slogan, I can just think of a hundred other slogans that are aggressive but also humanitarian and progressive, like the "fighting" women you've mentioned in your post.

I suppose "born fighting" will do though, especially since I love the book.

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