Today the sun finally broke through the clouds in Boston. So, after finishing lunch in a cute little Italian cafe in Beacon Hill, I decided to head to the nearby Boston Public Gardens for an afternoon stroll while making a phone call to an old friend from school. I didn’t get very far.
Still a couple hundred feet from the park, I could see the flashing blue lights of the police cars that blocked the road along the permitter of the Boston Commons. I heard horns honking, voices chanting, and as I drew closer I began to recognize the “NOW” logos on the large white picket signs along the sidewalk. My studies in feminism have familiarized me with NOW, the “National Organization for Women” that headed up America’s Second Wave feminist movement. I have fantasized about marching in their protest lines at the height of their movement in the 60’s and 70’s, a time when it seems collective action was so much more energetic and visible than today.
As I drew closer, there were other familiar images. Banners with the colorful emblem of Our Lady of Guadeloupe. Masses of people, their hands thrust into the air cradling rosary beads or wooden crucifixes. Women in habit, and men with starched white collars. The anger in the air shook me as I realized: I am walking straight into a feminist/Catholic standoff over abortion rights. And that’s exactly what it was.
Where do I stand? My eyes darted from one activist crowd to the other like the screams that flew back and forth between them. Where do I stand? For a moment I thought I would just continue to the park, but I couldn’t. These are my people en masse! How could I pass this up?! …But where would I stand? I kept asking myself this. Where do I stand? I didn’t fit in among the harsh juxtaposition of the protest lines. My convictions about abortion–and any other topic for that matter–aren’t relegated to one aspect of my identity (feminist) or any other (like, Catholic). My views about the world are Catholic and feminist–because I am both Catholic and feminist. In the “us” or “them” of these protest lines–and in much of the moral debate between these parties–there often isn’t a place for someone like me to stand up as I am.
I wanted to stand where I stand–between the lines and posters and the yelling–right there in the middle of it. You see, I live in the middle of it all the time. And the anger in the air shakes me.