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a peaceful protest

I was 16, and the thought of being forced to mention God as part of the pledge of allegiance was too hypocritical an act for me to play along with. Each day of high school began with this mundane recitation, as most people just stood with their hand jutting from a hip, the other dangling across their chest as they counted out the seconds until they could sit back down. They leaned against desks, and talked through it about what party and where it would be, if there would be a keg or a bonfire in the woods. I recited the words, omitting the "under God" part as a sort of half-baked protest. I was raised to flaunt my family's ramshackle atheism, as a choice of smug pride. We knew better, was the prevailing logic.

But one day, I could not stand and say any of it. It felt so rote, so hollow, so devoid of choice. There was no law that said I was required to say it. I knew this was my right, a form of free speech. My homeroom teacher was a legendary drinker, a trash-talking re…

of patriots


There are parades going on now, jets screaming overhead in formation. There are crowds, and military bands, supposedly a new tank on display. But that is in Red Square, and like any wise foreigner I am inside, tucked in a corner far from the center of the city, working on another Russian holiday.

Going for a walk in the late afternoon, we push the stroller hoping V will find sleep for at least an hour or so. There is a forest with a path, dirt lines curving into a thick collection of trees, the occasional bridge over brown water. Normally, this place is marked by old people and children on little scooters. It is a quiet acre where birds and insects flit around.

Today, every hundred feet offers another clump of people crouched around small grills. There are giant clouds of smoke. Some smell good, some smell like jet fuel. The sun is reaching into the forest before it sets. Children wear soldier's hats, with sticks they whack against leaves shouting words I do not hear. There are families, and collections of young people. They look at us as we roll past, with long, blank stares. No small nod of the head, no acknowledgment, no tip of the beer bottle.

There are groups of migrants too, men with black hair and low pointy shoes, squatting on flattened cardboard boxes in small circles. They do not even look, faces to the center, speaking in low voices.

There is one drunk man, shoving and arguing with another less-drunk man. I am trying to take pictures with my Leica, the smoke and the trees are too good to pass up and N is telling me to put the camera away, to follow her, to keep moving.





Comments

liv said…
Please tell N I wish her a Happy Mother's day, a bit late because of the time difference, but none the less with heartfelt joy.

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