(Indianapolis Monthly, January 27, 2017)
Is #teaspoon trending yet?
Indy’s esteemed Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso was one of several speakers at a women’s rally that drew an estimated 7,500 people to the Indiana Statehouse on Saturday. Her speech was simple yet potent, recalling basic rights minorities lacked as recently as 1960. Some women in the crowd nodded along, remembering when those limitations existed. The crowd joined Sasso in punctuating each statement with a refrain of “we are not going back.” The oration ended with a teaspoon metaphor that illustrated the power of many small contributions. Here is the full text of the speech (written and copyrighted by Sasso) and a photo gallery from the event:
We who have gathered here are from many faiths, cultural and ethnic traditions, and walks of life. We have come as Americans, especially as American women. In our diversity, we are the face of America.
We come with one voice and one resolve to say, “We are not going back.”
In 1960, a woman could not get a credit card, a bank loan, or own property in her name. We are not going back.
In 1960, women could not report sexual harassment in the workplace. Women were told, “Boys will be boys” or “you asked for it; it’s your fault.” We are not going back.
In 1960, domestic violence was a family problem, not a crime. We are not going back.
In 1960, women could not obtain a safe and legal abortion. Hundreds died from back-alley abortions. One of them was my neighbor. We are not going back.
In 1960, women could not purchase contraceptive devices and medications to control their own pregnancy and could not receive comprehensive sex education in the school. We are not going back.
In 1960, women made up less than 1 percent of medical and law schools, and many job opportunities were closed to them. I know; I entered a profession in which there were no women. We are not going back.
In 1960, homosexuality was considered a psychiatric disorder, discrimination was rampant, and marriage between people of the same sex was prohibited. We are not going back.
In the early 1960s, there was racial segregation in most public places, in schools, in housing, in employment, even in our city. We are not going back.
In 1940, Italian, German, and Japanese immigrants were required to register, to our shame. Jews escaping Nazi Germany were prevented from entering the United States, abandoning millions to certain death, to our shame. We are not going back.
I am here representing Women4Change Indiana, an inclusive, nonpartisan, and grassroots organization to promote the health, safety, and respect of all Hoosiers. Motivated by a desire to address the escalating rhetoric of hate and the increasing acts of intimidation and violence which demean minorities, immigrants, and women, we are a powerful voice for change.
We are over 3,000 women strong and we are growing. Our summit on February 7 has 1,400 attending. We are not going back.
Some years ago, the award-winning author Amos Oz said that there are a number of ways to respond to calamity. Take the example of a fire. What can you do? You can run away. You can write an angry letter to the newspaper or tweet about who should be held accountable. Or you can bring a bucket of water to throw on the fire. “If you don’t have a bucket,” he adds, “bring a glass, and if you don’t have a glass, bring a teaspoon. Everyone has a teaspoon. I know a teaspoon is little, and the fire is huge but there are millions of us and each one of us has a teaspoon.”
Bring your teaspoon as a teacher and a neighbor.
Bring your teaspoon as a scientist and an artist.
Bring your teaspoon as an employee and an employer.
Bring your teaspoon as a mother and a daughter, as a father and a son.
Bring your teaspoon as a citizen, and pour water on hate and fanaticism.
The poet and author Marge Piercy wrote, “A strong woman loves strongly and weeps strongly and is strongly terrified. A strong woman is a woman determined to do something others are determined not to be done.”
A strong woman is determined never to go back to a time when her rights over her body, her dignity, and her opportunities were restricted.
A strong woman carries a teaspoon, determined in vigilance, in volition, and in vision.
We are strong women. We all have a teaspoon. And we are not going back.