It takes a great deal to earn a look of respect from your teenage daughters. They are much more into eye rolling. But that makes the sporadic show of wonder just a bit sweeter. I had one of those moments’ decades ago when my oldest girl wanted to go to her best friend’s “scholarship” (read “beauty”) pageant. They were seniors in high school, but the finals of the competition were being held at the auditorium of Washington University in downtown St. Louis.
Growing up in the middle of the feminist movement, I have always thought beauty contests were too “Suzy-Cream Cheese” for me, but my daughter was supporting her friend and I was supporting both. They were smart cookies, talented in lots of things and if Karen wanted to cheer for Monique, so did I.
It was a chilling Friday night when we got to the entrance to the auditorium. The path was crowded with beauty contest opponents, orange sawhorses and a few police. Karen took one look at the array of people and her face fell.
I told her to grab hold of the belt of my coat, stay right behind me and not to let go.
“Don’t worry,” I said, “your Mom is an old barricade runner from the ’60’s.” We ducked, dodged and sidestepped our way past a basically peaceful but noisy group and got into the building in seconds. When we sat down Karen looked at me with genuine admiration.
“Where did you learn that?” she asked.
“I’ll tell you sometime.” I answered.
I am not sure that I ever did. I’ll have to ask her the next time we talk.
When we do, I will have a follow-up story to tell her. It seems Mom is walking the line again.
I am 73 years old. That means I was in college during the early years of the civil rights movement, 1964-1968. President Kennedy was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963, during my senior year in high school. I have seen and remember turbulent times. But I thought they were just that — memories. It turns out, and not for the first time, that I was wrong.
The other day my husband and I attended the protest march at Edinburg City Hall to show our support for the extension, expansion and ultimate refining of the civil rights movement that took leaps forward during my college years. Personally, I thought I was done with most of the heavy lifting. When you fought for civil rights in the ’60’s your life was on the line. But, if my generation of boomers led from the front back in the day, it seems we are now needed to push from behind.
Having been over this ground before, I know a few things going in. I am not going to agree with everybody who walks and talks today. I am going to be more peaceful, less profane, more conservative and way less tattooed than many of the people with whom I will be protesting. But none of that changes the fact that all people — especially those with whom I disagree — must be equal under the law, equal in economic and social opportunity, equal in respect given and regard received.
If I love this country, honor our Constitution and follow the teachings of the Christ I believe in, I cannot let my voice be quiet when I see all three of those things debased by the very authority that should be their champion.
I walked then. I will walk now. I keep the faith.
Louise Butler is a retired educator and published author who lives in McAllen. She writes for The Monitor’s Board of Contributors.