It’s primary day in New York and pretty much every subway station has someone pressing the flesh, as they used to say, handing out fliers, hoping to get your attention just long enough to let you know they back one candidate or another for the political jobs that are up for grabs today. I’m not sure what caught my eye about this one woman this morning, but it was probably the weaving, the crisscrossing the sidewalk motion she made, making sure she spoke to everyone who came by her on their way to the train.
She had long, dangling earrings and she was older, older than me certainly, with short, cropped gray hair. Her haircut looked like she’d cut it herself and it badly needed a trim. Her skirt was overlong, striped canvas, hanging almost to her ankles. She wore battered Birkenstocks with the three straps buckled across the top of her bare feet. The lightweight white V-necked blousy top had blue wild flowers embroidered on the front and long sleeves that were trimmed in the same blue flowers and wider at the bottom than her wrists.
She was a hippie, an older version of her long ago self, still handing out political news of some candidate, some issue, something she hoped everyone else would care about as much as she does. She had a TWU plastic shopping bag hanging over her arm, the embodiment of a lifelong choice for activism instead of lethargy, revolution instead of the status quo. I’m certain she’s calling her handouts “fliers” now. In the 70s, she probably used to call them “pamphlets” or “leaflets,” words no longer in use.
I wanted to see what was in her leather messenger bag. Does she keep things in there that no self-respecting hippie would own? Does she have keys to a nice duplex with a river view or an IPhone with games on it? Or is this someone who still lives in a rent-controlled studio with her cats, recycling every bread wrapper and taking her homemade yogurt with her to marches and sit-ins? The very idea of keeping up with the politics of every generation for the past 40 years exhausts me, but here she is, handing out fliers. I wonder if she goes downtown to hand out cookies and granola bars to the OWS people, but more importantly, I wonder why that bothers me.
I wanted to yell, “Grow up already!” The revolution never came because we never really wanted it. We left school and got jobs and raised families the best way we knew how and left you to hand out the fliers. There is no doubt in my mind that my life was made better for having her work so hard all these years for social justice and peace. So why do I begrudge her now the opportunity to keep doing it, to keep hoping that change is always better than what we have, and that tomorrow is only better if we make it so?
She makes me feel guilty. I feel guilty that she is doing this and I reap the benefits without even taking one of her fliers.
In the end, I hope her candidate wins. I don’t even know what he was running for.
(Always posted on Open Salon too.)