Activism

I am thinking I should have something more cheerful here instead of death and cancer. Even the Cancer Bitch needs some non-cancer space. I'm grateful for the oases of time when I don't think about breast cancer. All of a sudden I'll think: I haven't thought about breast cancer for a few hours.

Tonight our friend Y came for dinner. He is a costumed activist. (My term. Like a costumed hero.) Meaning he works for a labor union and also organizes protests that often involve the wearing of costumes. Several years ago in order to protest the policies of a company, he targeted the CEO, and held protests at events connected to the CEO. The CEO is on the board of the opera, so our friend got a number of people to dress as recognizable opera figures and they stood in front of the opera as it was starting, blaring out Wagner and handing out leaflets. I don't say "costumed activist" in any pejorative way. I would like to be a costumed activist. I have been one a little bit--once in the days of Ladies Against Women (feminists pretending to be non-feminists in order to show how silly the opposition was ) and last year through Code Pink. What I like about Code Pink is that the organizers insert fun into the protests, which are about the serious subject of war in Iraq. There's the same anti-Establishment sense of play or street theater that the Yippies employed. Remember the Yippies? They threw dollar bills on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange and watched the traders grasp and grab for them in a rank display of dog-eat-dog capitalism. They also tried to exorcise evil spirits from the Pentagon and to levitate it. They organized the ill-fated Festival of Life in reaction to the Convention of Death that was the Chicago Democratic Convention in 1968. If only Daley had allowed them to sleep overnight in the park.

Could this sense of protest-fun be harnessed in breast cancer activism? I'm not sure what breast-cancer activism is. Is it getting more women to get mammograms? That's nice, easy, mainstream, doesn't target anyone as the Villain. Except if you look at disparities in the quality of health care in this country. Is it going after the environmental causes of cancer? Of course. But that's so much more difficult.
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Which brings us to joy. I agree with Barbara Ehrenreich that there's too much treacle out there about breast cancer--positive attitudes, what my cancer taught me. But there is something to be said for joy. Even Ehrenreich's newest book is about public celebrations. And I noticed that the AWP convention (which I'll have to miss because of impending though not-yet-scheduled surgery) will have a panel on creative nonfiction and joy. Enough of memoirs about trauma and sorrow and addiction.

But we do *not* need breast cancer to remind us of our mortality or to remember to savor each moment. That's what we have therapy, and meditation, and religion, for.

1 comment:

Garry Cooper said...

You're almost ready to make your decision. You're doing a great job getting all the info so that you can make the best decision--bummer that sometimes we do a great job and the payoff is both uncertain and in the future. We're supposed to get an immediate reward for doing a great job--isn't that the way we were promised as kids that the world works?

L's nervous because he loves you, but you have to make sure that his nervousness doesn't stampede you into making your decision. At the same time you do have to make your decision. So with everything converging, no wonder there's a part of you that doesn't want to deal with any of this anymore. Ask your final questions of surgeon one re the lymph nodes (part of what goes into my medical decision-making is how quickly the doc gets back to me; it tells a lot about how the postop relationship with the doc and the recovery and subsequent questions and answers will feel). Then, knowing that you won't know for certain but have made the best decision you can given the info, you'll be ready and hopefully immune from second guessing yourself later.

You're representing yourself really well. And, incidentally, your best book yet is taking shape.