Published on Wednesday, April 20, 2005 by CommonDreams.org
Marla Ruzicka, Rachel Corrie, and Revolution of Heart
by Elisa Salasin
|I knew little about Marla Ruzicka and her important work before yesterday, but her death -- much like that of Rachel Corrie in 2003 -- touched me deeply. I must note that my sadness does not only get called out by the deaths of young, white, female activists, but there is a certain sense of identification that I feel with these women. And, in their faces, I also see my three-year old daughter, Rosie. Or, perhaps more accurately, I see the kind of spirit, determination, courage, empathy, and love that I hope Rosie carries with her out into the world. I hope this for both my children, for all our children.
As do many mothers and fathers, I sometimes stress too much about whether or not I've got what it takes to be a good parent. These worries are decreasing as I gain more experience in the job. But, in my thinking about parenting, I have become quite fascinated by the paths that individual lives take, especially the influences and experiences that motivate people to take action towards a more just and humane world. I wonder about the forces that propelled Marla and Rachel to make this pursuit their life work.
A few months ago, I read a Common Dreams piece by Rebecca Solnit, and one quote touched upon this fascination. She wrote: "Some activists are born into their disposition and vocation, but many of the most passionate lead ordinary lives until some injustice or atrocity strikes them like lightning and they are reborn dedicated."
What might it mean to be "born into" the disposition of activism? What role do parents, family, and community play in building this disposition? How can I help to nurture, as Dorothy Day said, a "revolution of the heart" in my own children? This is a challenge that each of us must take on if we hope to achieve Marla Ruzicka's and Rachel Corrie's vision, if we hope to honor the lives of all victims of war, oppression, injustice.
One thing I know for sure -- there is no sure-fire recipe for doing this. It is unlikely that there will be parenting books written on the topic.
Another thing I know, however, is that I do have the power of my own voice and actions, working collectively with others, to serve as both example and guide for my children. Awhile back, Robert Jensen, in his indispensable book, Citizens of the Empire, provided me with another beacon along these lines:
"I have heard many parents say that their contribution to a better world is to raise their children with progressive values. That's all well and good; better to have children with progressive rather than reactionary role models. But I think these folks misunderstand not just their moral obligation, but the nature of progress, individual and collective. We don't fix ourselves in isolation. We don't build decent lives by cutting ourselves off from problems just because they are complex... Part of the solution is always to be found in the bigger struggle, in which we all have a part."
So, much of this was on my mind as Rosie and I looked at one of the widely circulated photos of Marla Ruzicka with a young Iraqi girl. As is typical, Rosie wanted to know all about each of the people in the picture, and so I used my best make-it-comprehensible-to-a-three-year-old language to try and explain. I told her that Marla was somebody who tried to make the world a better place, and that she had helped the little girl in the picture, whose family had died in the war.
I then told her that Marla herself had died in the war, and Rosie grew still as she carefully studied the picture. She asked me if helping the girl is how Marla did good things for the world. Yes, I said, but also because Marla helped many other people as well. Silence again.
"But now, who will help the little girl?" she asked.
I replied that hopefully we will all work together to help that little girl, and many others like her. Rosie may not understand this now, but I am confident that someday, she will.
Elisa Salasin lives in Berkeley, California. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.