Radical Assault : Grandmothers March on Washington

by Robert Chianese, concept by Richard Kline

It was bound to happen. They had taken too much. Their hearts, their lives, their wisdom had been ignored. Not just by the boys and girls running the government, but often by their own sons and daughters and grandsons and granddaughters, running the world for themselves, ruining it.

They came by the thousands, hundreds of thousands, and many thousands more in city after city.  Some were walking stoutly, some crept slowly along, some with canes, some with walkers, and some pushing other grandmothers in wheelchairs. They couldn’t be stopped now.

It wasn’t just that they came to state their own grievances and that the civility they tried to teach to their children and their grandchildren and the children in the government was being corrupted. What grandmothers had most to shout about was painfully watching their children and grandchildren fall by the wayside and become part of a greedy and heartless and violent society.

No one had listened to them. They were humored, given empty gifts, and disregarded. Their wisdom about steadfastness, facing life’s damages, and fighting back against unmerited misfortune was not what the fun-time power-hungry generations wanted to hear.  Grandma was right, you know, but who paid attention and acted on what she said?  She’s grandma.

They didn’t listen when she spoke about empathy and care for the helpless and respect and love for the earth, the only love, it turns out, that finally matters. Grandmothers had known the violations the earth endures every day– the ripping apart, the trashing, the penetrations and exploitations of her deepest treasures– not oil or gold, but the very lifeblood of water and soil and air and all the living things that got owned and turned into money and profit. Not for the many but for the ever-dwindling  and diminished few.

That was worth marching about. That was worth displaying grandmother energy and wisdom.

And for some, that was worth going bare chested.

What? Yes, many wore sheer blouses or drapes, but others marched bare chested, evoking Lady Justice, slightly covered or one breast exposed or both. Weighing actions in scales, ready with a sword both to punish and protect.

Who could ignore that, or stop it? Who could spin this around in one’s brain and make sense of it? Grandma nearly naked?  Was it a display of suffering? Fragile motherhood? A penitent’s baring ones’ wounds? A slave exposing her lashes and chains and imploring pity?

No. It was a way of prying open the closed off psyche of humankind. This shock, this bizarre scene of old women—some with full breasts, or flat ones, speckled, freckled or smooth, assorted white, black, brown ladies, now yellowed, faded, and dusk, and then ones with only one breast remaining, or none, with misshapen sacs where the milk of human kindness once flowed–overwhelmed the psyche, made it stare and not turn away and finally turn inward. Confusing, elevating, anxiety-producing, without bounds or meaning, powered-up then discharged at once. Some daughters and granddaughters blanched in shame, others saw what they now had to do.

The President in the White House was disturbed, the Cabinet Members, the Senators, the Congress, the Courts and Agencies, they all looked on and were silent. Who could fathom it? Deranged they became. Assaulted inside, touched, humiliated, opened.

It had this sense to it: here’s what we have lost, here’s what you crave, a pause, a rest from weary racing and fighting and distracting yourselves. Those grandmothers voiced that in body and soul.  Grandmothers provide everything: shelter, warmth, full openness and acceptance, exposure to the inner workings of the heart and mind. The pierced psyche of humanity opens to them, fearful, tearful, coming apart, getting bare itself, feeling the pull of connection, uprightness, reality, the connections to all that was lost.

This exposure of the grandmother heart, mind, and body, the extravagant act of baring themselves to the crudity and corruption and duplicity of the world shakes it, to its core. No words spoken, no manifestos, no declarations. The shameless, ultimate exposure of our full humanness opens the psyche into a new birth of grace, the giving of oneself. The world is no longer desolate, now full of the wise, invisible milk of grandmothers.

© Robert Louis Chianese

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