Some Want To Fly Isn’t That Crazy

My co-worker whom we Poor Impulsives call Chuan was born in Singapore and emigrated to New Jersey as a small child. A few weeks ago, Chuan and his two sisters spent two weeks visiting China, where one sister works. It was, judging by the pictures, a grand adventure. Here, Chuan kicks up his heels at the Hall of Supreme Harmony, which was under construction. It’s quite possible I might be a little jealous, but of what? Maybe the once-familiar escape from the iron grip of gravity.

Today, my dear friend Lala forwarded a reminder that history is nothing if not a bitch.

The women were innocent and defenseless. And by the end of the night, they were barely alive. Forty prison guards wielding clubs and their warden’s blessing went on a rampage against the 33 women wrongly convicted of “obstructing sidewalk traffic.”

They beat Lucy Burn, chained her hands to the cell bars above her head and left her hanging for the night, bleeding and gasping for air. They hurled Dora Lewis into a dark cell, smashed her head against an iron bed and knocked her out cold. Her cellmate, Alice Cosu, thought Lewis was dead and suffered a heart attack. Additional affidavits describe the guards grabbing, dragging, beating, choking, slamming, pinching, twisting and kicking the women.

Thus unfolded the “Night of Terror” on Nov. 15, 1917, when the warden at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia ordered his guards to teach a lesson to the suffragists imprisoned there because they dared to picket Woodrow Wilson’s White House for the right to vote.

For weeks, the women’s only water came from an open pail. Their food – all of it colorless slop – was infested with worms. When one of the leaders, Alice Paul, embarked on a hunger strike, they tied her to a chair, forced a tube down her throat and poured liquid into her until she vomited. She was tortured like this for weeks until word was smuggled out to the press.

I don’t know who wrote that, but it rang a distant bell for me. I’m ashamed to say it but I’d forgotten who Alice Paul was, so I looked her up. Imagine my chagrin:

The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was introduced in every session of Congress from 1923 until it passed in 1972. During the 1940s, both the Republicans and Democrats added the ERA to their party platforms. In 1943, the ERA was rewritten and dubbed the “Alice Paul Amendment.” The new amendment read, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

Fuck! I forgot Alice! Did you remember Alice? This is a blog post about Alice. Back to the letter of unknown origin about HBO’s Iron Jawed Angels:

It is jarring to watch Woodrow Wilson and his cronies try to persuade a psychiatrist to declare Alice Paul insane so that she could be permanently institutionalized. And it is inspiring to watch the doctor refuse. Alice Paul was strong, he said, and brave. That didn’t make her crazy.

The doctor admonished the men: “Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity.”

This would be an excellent, life-preserving moment to remember the unbelievable courage that brought us – all of us – to where we stand – or fly – now, because our politics have gone crazy.

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