Thursday, March 1, 2012

Love the Struggle

I have had no time to blog this week.  And I am a little in a funk.  But today I am in the middle of a really boring job at work, so I turned on Living Room with Kris Welch at noon on KPFA, and say what you want about Kris, she is a true feminist, and she sometimes has really great feminist guests on her show.  So she has this woman on, named Merle Hoffman.  Never heard of her, which probably says more about me than about her.  But she is awesome.  She is the founder of Choices Women’s Medical Center, editor in chief of On the Issues magazine and the author of a new book, Intimate Wars:  The Life and Times of the Woman who Brought Abortion from the Back Alley to the Boardroom .  Now right off the bat, that title makes my hair stand on end.  I don’t know whether she chose the title; I’ve heard that non-celebrity authors don’t usually get to pick their own titles.  If she did, that’s a big problem, because no one woman brought abortion from the back alley to the board room.  Her bio says she is President and CEO of Choices, and I don’t tend to love Presidents or CEOs.  If I knew Ms. Hoffman, I might not think so highly of her.
Boy, there are a lot of great photos
of Flo to choose from.
This one courtesy Racialicious
But she just said something that I find so profound in this moment, when I’m having a lot of frustration because I feel like I keep spinning wheels and not getting very far.  She was quoting Flo Kennedy, who was apparently a friend of hers (which makes me think I might like her after all), and she said Kennedy told her, “You have to learn to love the struggle.”  And she said people ask her how she keeps going, when she never wins, and she said, “I love the struggle.”  Wow, that is just the most profound thing I have heard in ages.  I used to love the struggle.  I used to feel excited about the political work I was doing, whether it was a confrontational direct action or a five-hour meeting.  Now I tend to approach it all with a feeling of dread, of worrying that it’s not going to come off, or that it’s going to go horribly wrong, that I’ll let people down or let myself down, that no one wants to work with me, or I don’t want to work with them, that I’m trying to do things I’m not suited for or don’t have time to do things as well as I am capable of doing them.  I have petty resentments, and hate myself for them.
In the end I’m nearly always glad I did whatever it was, whether it came off or not, because ultimately I know what I’m doing is right.  I mean, the other day I interviewed a woman I met in Bahrain, Zainab al Khawaja, who was recently in prison for a week after an action.  She was lucky to be released after a week; she could be doing a life sentence for no more than that, like her father, Abdulhadi Al Khawaja, who is currently on the 21st day of a hunger strike.  I didn’t ask Zainab if she felt like it was worth it to go to jail for a week just for sitting down near Pearl Roundabout.  I know some of her friends were not that happy about it, felt like she could be more useful outside.  But I’m pretty sure she feels like whatever happens will be okay, as long as it’s for the struggle, because I think she loves the struggle.
A guy in my writing group, who is not political at all, just made a snide comment about one of my blogs, saying that it only reinforced his sense of the futility of going somewhere for a week and getting deported.  It’s funny because I don’t have that feeling about the experience at all.  It’s not like I think I made this huge difference by doing it, but clearly I made more than if I hadn’t, because now not only I but everyone I know is thinking about Bahrain, which we were not doing a month ago.  So if I never do another thing about Bahrain (which is certainly not my plan) I will still think it was worth it.  And I also loved it and was not asking myself questions about whether what I was doing was right.  I just did what came along and knew it would work out for the best.  But here, I have so many choices that it’s easy to look at other people and think they seem so much more confident about their paths than I feel.
This is the first day of International Women’s Day month, and the commitment I'm making is to do whatever will help me regain that love for the struggle.
Here's a little thing I did last week that I did not want to do, but ended up feeling really good about.


  1. Hi Kate,

    I like this blog entry. I like that you describe simultaneously loving the struggle and not wanting to do a specific action or activity. For me, the love often trumps the resistance to acting, especially in retrospect, but I find myself growing tired.

    I'm frustrated most by tactics these days, not by the rightness of acting. I recently wrote this:


  2. I know exactly what you mean -- I too seldom want to go to whatever I perceive as the next location in the struggle, but I do go, usually. Not as faithfully as you perhaps, but I try.

    Occasionally I get good days, like today, being a part of turning in 800,000 signatures to put the death penalty on the California ballot. This one can be won, a novel thought.

    Thanks for your honesty and your commitment.

    1. Yes, we are going to win that one! I agree, I was so heartened when I saw the headline that we had made it, even though I only did a tiny little bit of signature gathering.

  3. I hear it about the feeling of dread. I used to really enjoy the struggle and used to say to folks all the time that I was here to fight, that whether we win or not is ultimately not up to me. But now so often the dread...

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