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China Martens
P.O. Box 4803 Baltimore MD 21211

The Future Generation #75

Mama Sez No War
    I have been following current events on the Internet. The world is certainly getting a lot smaller. I can look into people’s online diaries; see how other people are feeling - find links to look up more information than I get on the television - and check out information on protests that are going on. One amazing resource is Yo Mama Says, the parental is political - which is listed on hipmama.com  (I personally always check in with Foment and Suess’s site: Chaos Aesthetic, when I’m on hipmama.)  I also frequent a mother writer’s site - Mamaphonic.com. There I met a mother who put together a zine about the experiences of mothers protesting this attack on Iraq. She wanted to put it out timely and did succeed: 68 pages - with 12 contributors (including 3 essays by me). I read Viki’s stories about going to demos in NYC with her two year old daughter, partner, mom friends, and non parent friends - and they are great. She is a younger generation than me - but as she is a volunteer at ABC No Rio - spent time in the squats before - someone in the scene - I feel I know where she is coming from. It feels really good to have our own media and hear our own stories, in times like these.
    I recommend every single one of you to send away for Mama Sez No War. This is an incredibly powerful and diverse (contributors from NYC to a small town in Australia) compilation of voices and you need to read it, no matter who you are. I just can’t stress this enough. This zine vibrates in my hand - crystal clear voices - from the sandbox - from a pregnant pause: before the bombs drop - to thoughts on children as activist - to the last essay on revolution. Lots of photographs, too. It’s $1.06 in either well-concealed cash or postage (preferably postage) to PO Box 20388, Tompkins Square Station New York, NY 10009 or email for info at cradlecap00@yahoo.com
    When I first started corresponding with Viki - it was because I enjoyed her stories about her daughter Siu Loong so much, and tales of community gardens, photography, shadows. Viki is very inspiring to me - she also is co-editor of Tenacious: Writings from Women in Prison. We have been each others cheerleaders for the writing projects we have worked on this month. I actually read her first account of a protest in NYC - (exciting accounts like, for example, how the child free friends linked arms, circled the mama’s and got them safely out of the crowd when the riot police were coming) and told her how great I thought her essay was—when she got the idea to get together a whole zine on this topic. She asked me for a submission. Initially I said I had nothing. I felt rather cynical and un-active, compared to her. I shared with her the 9 page “poem” I’d typed on national poetry against the war day - something I actually wrote a few months after 9/11. (This monster vent did not go in Mama Sez No War)
    Viki said my poem was scary in parts and its also scary how resigned I am. I throw in everything - in this poem: man’s inhumanity to man, injustice and war - the deaths of children and mother’s fear for the futureÖbut also: teenage heartbreak, old people dying of old age, and progress destroying my old neighborhood. Why throw this all in? Because I am trying to come to grips with negativity and death. Why group old age and war in the same poem? One is a given, the other can be prevented. Yes, butÖ
    All my life there has been war and I can’t prevent it. I’m not supposed to say that. I am supposed to say stuff to make us all feel like empowered activists. But this is how I feel. Then spring comes and I don’t want to watch the war everyday. You feel bad, you feel you don’t want people to be killed in our name. We don’t want this. But I just feel with the advent of the world becoming a smaller place - the news is going to bombard us with pain everyday for the rest of our life. It has always been that way. One crisis after another. Ok, if I say this it means I am getting desensitized and apathetic. ButÖ.
    When my neighbor’s child was run over by a car and died - and I saw him laying in the street. And I saw his grandparents dressed in black. I had to deal with this tragedy. There is tragedy in all our lives. Some we face alone. Some we unite and experience as a group. Sometimes events hit us hard and we feel it deeply and we must act. But sometimes we let it go and have denial.
    Well its something I have to come to grips with. My daughter once told me, that she wished she believed in God. She wished she had faith there was life after death, and divine justice- so she would not be so scared. I said - Me too, I think we need some more faith. But I can’t trade security for loss of freedom of thought. Neither can I, she said. We have to question.
    I have raised her with a lot of truth after all. I never told her that Santa Claus existed. I don’t lie to children. After I told her the tooth fairy didn’t exist—she asked me if I could just pretend to be the tooth fairy - (including dressing up like one) and sneak into her bedroom to take her tooth and leave her money (and a tiny note - I added that part) where she would pretend to be sleeping. She had a lot of fun with that.
    I remember discussing how I wanted my daughter to know the truth about life - with a Buddhist roommate. And how he showed me that compassion is just as, if not more important, than truth. That discussion changed my life. I remember when my daughter told me once (when she was 5) defiantly - “ I believe in God and Angels and Dragons. I believe in it all!” When she got all excited to see a man dressed up like Santa Clause on the street - like he was the one - I didn’t butt in with my truth, this time - as she had declared to me, her need to believe.
    I intend this column to be like a sermon - I really like those old time preachers, usually black preachers, Baptists or ÖI don’t know - the ones that are deep. I saw one on TV - talking about the first soldiers funeral in Baltimore: “ on this date, this man was given to us, by  God. On this date, this man is called to return, to God.” Something like that. You come from the blue, you return to the blue.. Funerals can be intense sometimes. I heard of a Buddhist funeral that was about forgiveness and healing - of a young college woman who was killed by her boyfriend. Funerals can give you - and this is important - a joy to life - a hope for life - to continue on - to celebrate what was, although it was fleeting and fragile - in the face of sadness and despair. And this I think is life. We must learn to mourn right. To keep a space for death. Death that can come at any day, in any way, and in any injustice. But to have our faith and activism and life. To fully feel. Some call it fatalism. But I call it, dealing with the deeper issues of what life is made up, shadow and light and the balance between. The good in the bad, the bad in the good. Not just blaming it all on politics, all on the government, or scapegoat a certain group to be the evil ones.
    So, these days, my daughter doesn’t believe in god, angels, or dragons. I think. That was pre-school. In elementary school she went through a phase of being a proud atheist. “My mom made me”- she said as a retort when people said God made people. Its your hell, you burn there, and I will stay here and play with your toys - she basically told this religious kid who had threatened her with going to hell if she didn’t believe in God. She was so saucy. I also remember her telling someone she was proud to be a bastard—in the fourth grade, when this boy told her that she was a bastard because she was born out of wedlock. Then the boy said - you ought not be proud of that. And she laughed at him - Ha Ha Ha, Well I am.
    Wait a minute, let me ask her (what she believes in). Well, she says she does believe in God for the last few years - but its a mix of God and Science. She doesn’t believe in Heaven. Then we had this talk about the meaning of life - and she doesn’t agree with some of my main pretext to share here. She isn’t as afraid of death as she used to be. (She used to be super afraid) But she thinks it is the end of you and she doesn’t find funerals as comforting as I try to explain I think they are.
    I am real big into Science and nature shows and stuff. I think when they show you about these beautiful ecosystems and what’s inside the body and all - that is like God to me. Physics tells you “Energy can not be made nor destroyed, only changes forms”. I would try to explain this to her when she was afraid of death - which I think of as a transformation - a mystery - a negative force that has many positive side affects. Of course we can’t know until we die. But I think we will not be us - we will be like some atoms in the dirt or something and change from there. That everyday is a little death and nature shows you have to let go to get back. Everything is a cycle - change is life.
    OK - I need some belief to be like ok with living and not a nervous wreck. (I have had times when I have lost hope - and those have been the most painful times of my life. One time, I simply prayed to have faith that things could get better - I made a spell to be able to have faith. I gathered holy, put it around a nice candle and lit it, with a red sweater on and holy leaves done up in my, at the time, black hair. It was solstice. I focused my thoughts on what I wanted. I was tired of being poor, shit poor, and thinking it was never going to get any better. My friend laughed at me, when I told him how my spell left me feeling so much better. He said - In order to pray to have faith - well it shows you have faith in the first place! True. By the way, I am careful with my spells. Be careful what you wish for. Be thankful. And its best to pray for things out of yourself. Not the world. But that You can become braver, more resistant, etc. - whatever you want. Because you can pull things out of yourself but there is no magic wand that can change the world to suit the individual) My belief is kinda open and open to questioning and being destroyed and cropping up in new places.
    I believe it is really important to be nice to other people and not kill them especially - unless it is total self defense. I believe our government lies to us and there are corrupt people in power. I believe that this is the same old - same old and I really question authority big time. And I believe having compassion for everyone I meet is more important than arguing about who is right and who is wrong. I think people can get really confused and have different view points - although they are basically good - and there are these chain reactions that we have to jump in sometimes - with something new - then revenge or acting out.
    Most of all. I see so much hope. I think so many people - come to the aid and protect people - even though those people are totally different than them - a different race or culture or whatever. I think we are seeing a lot of bad on our television screens.. And I am not telling you to disregard this. But I am pointing to the celebration of life - of hope - of the power to continue - to do the right thing - to walk in the valley of the shadow of darknessÖand pull a flashlight out of your pocket, and some matches to light a campfire and invite some strangers to eat with you. This is what its about. Small things. Shrug the weight of the world off your shoulders. (Highly recommended reading for this paragraph is as follows: Dreaming the Dark: Magic, Sex and Politics by Starhawk and Anything We Love Can Be Saved: A Writer's Activism by Alice Walker.)
    I think this is something we are going to be needing for the rest of our lives. An anti war attitude and way of living. The small things are important. Don’t burn out. Don’t carry the world on your shoulders. There is the big picture - that we can not understand. Be kind to those around you. Be kind to the cops. Be kind to rednecks. Be kind to people with t-shirts that have offensive statements. Cuz we can’t gang up and fight the war people. And we can’t win. We can’t lose. We can just make something of our lives - between coming from the blue and returning to the blue. Something for ourselves, Something for others. Building resistance takes life times, generations, small acts, large acts, all kinds. Desperation doesn’t really make Desperate Times better. Sometimes it is the most delicate of untying knots, patience, and daily reminders of what we want - that works best - years of background effort. Ask any mom. Its not always the large acts: last stands and showdowns, ultimatums, and violent force that works best. Do what you feel is right in your heart. You are not meaningless nor insignificant. And sometimes things have a way of working out for the best. Rome will fall. But is it really about one war - or a way of life?
    Believe me, I get torn up inside and cry when I see pictures of children, men and women, dying in Iraq. I get angry and confused how people around me act to stimulus that seems so manipulative and false.. I want to stop the bombing of this most ancient city. But I can’t control what goes on in my own street let alone Country. I realize if I was getting bombed I would want people to act to stop it, not philosophize about resignation to death. I am not promoting compliance. Do what you believe in to make a better world. But its not bad either - to just be who you are, where you are, and doing the best you can. And having a life that will inspire others and gave you inspiration. Just doing some living. In little ways, you can change the world. In big ways - let go - its not all under your control and its not good to think it can be.

The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. -Barbara Kingsolver

    I am really getting old, y’all. And if the feeling of doom of its going to be the end of the world, and another war and more propaganda - seems to be the same old same old to me - when will it end?! I am starting to experience some changes, like the change in technology for one, the most numerous amount and largest protests I have experienced for second - and I need to express this even if this has nothing to do with the topic I have so far talked of: I just need to say: I am so impressed with my “scene” lately. I went to a punk rock show (anti war, tables of literature, 5 bands in some church) in Baltimore and I realize how long its been since I have truly been to a punk rock show. Everybody looked like kids to me. And they were so nice! The vibe was really good. The ultra punk rock 6 year old in tow - ran around like a heathen, moshing, karate kicking, talking to everybody and everyone was friendly, amused and Ölike the whole show was looking out for her. It was so cool.
    Faith, mother to the most punk rock kid in Baltimore - she used to be at shows and play with my daughter when she was little (She’s 15 now). And now, I am here with her child. And the whole crowd, I have to say, without a doubt, was child friendly. Damn, things have changed. They really have. I open up this zine I got in the mail (Viva La Mama!) and see under Underground mama railroad, these organizations: The Radical Mamas + Papas (Seattle); Mother’s Alliance 4 Militant Action, Radical Unschoolers Initiative (NYC); RAMBL posse, the Revolutionary Activist Mom and Baby League (Minneapolis); Militant Mamas (Toronto; and a Mama Gathering (LA in July). We in Baltimore, are trying to start a Free School. (More on that, next issue).
    Then I see how the Portland Zine Symposium planning (August 1-3) is coming along. They are planning “creative childcare as a workshop to hang out with kids to create and have fun with attendees but including a larger structure of caretakers emphasizing fun and responsibility”. There is a whole prepared daycare faction coming in—Community Action Childcare. Local mama zinester reported on mamaphonic: “I just attended the second planning meeting. I met the folks who head up the childcare, and they seem to have their shit together, which is great.. They've been watching people's kids for peace rallies and the like. They have toys, craft items etc. The rest of the zinesters seem excited about having kids around: plans are in the works for a shadow puppet show and a balloon-animal guy! I'll be meeting with them again. So, one of the things I need to know is just how many kids will there be? Can I get a head count? With ages?” I just want to add: the daycare provided is a special service not a segregated holding pen; children are welcome at the rest of the gathering too.
    I am really proud of the next generation of punks and free thinkers. Rebel Mama’s and Papa’s - and counter cultural happenings. This is not a youth rebellion. This is a culture and it is thriving like a community garden and a world wide web. I thought things would never change and yet they have and for the better - this scene is flourishing.
    Also, I am excited about a (historic!) compilation project of 26 mama zinesters - called MamaPhiles. I wrote a long 3 part piece about the birth of a movement, history of mama zines, and diary of a zine. (Cuz, like I told you, I am getting old - so I got something to say: I’ve been putting my zine out for 14 years now. But don’t make fun of me or I will hit you with my cane, plus my vampire powers keep me looking young and foxy. OK I am only 37, but that’s old enough to boast.) By the time this goes to print, it will be out. So get a hold of me if you want the status on that project. Take Care, y’all. Make a better world, everyday, because every morning is a new beginning and every night, is a little death. Keep it balanced.
— China • PO Box 4803 • Baltimore MD 21211 or China410@hotmail.com