by Cynthia Cone
If one good thing has come from my mother’s death, I would say that in the wake of her passing I have somehow managed to find a deeper meaning to my own life. My mother and I had a very complicated yet symbiotic relationship. Being the child of an alcoholic is not an easy thing by any stretch, but it does teach you a lot about people. As a kid, I grew up thinking that somehow I was not good enough for my mom to quit drinking, like I was not worth the effort. But as an adult, I understood that her drinking was never about me, that her issues began long before I was ever in the picture. In short, I learned that I was not the center of the universe; which, for a human, at least in my opinion, is one of the most valuable lessons you can learn.
My mom’s best friend (or in her words, “Soul Mate”) Anne summed her up quite succinctly: “Your mother was a great defender in her beliefs. Unfortunately, in her world, no one would hear her voice.” How frustrating that must have been! My mother always had a lot to say and held very strong opinions. To not have anyone in her family hear her, or at times even acknowledge that she was an intelligent person, must have been so demeaning.
Even though there were a lot of times my mother was not capable of being who I wanted her to be, there was one thing she always had time for, no matter what: she listened to me, even when my gripes were about her. Which is why I am determined that before I leave this planet, people will hear my voice—and in hearing mine, they will also hear hers. Not only do we sound identical, but my mother always allowed and even encouraged me to challenge the injustices that I saw in the world. She also had a very open mind about subjects like spirituality and sexuality, and encouraged me to keep an open mind as well.
She was so passionate about the issues she believed in and she would have been a dynamic “defender of good.” – Anne
One of the things my mother drilled into me from the time I was a little girl was that nobody deserved to be heard more than our country’s veterans. I remember how my mother would always stop to speak with them when they were selling their poppies outside the local supermarket. My mom hated wars, but she had so much respect for the men and women who fought in them. At times, I didn’t understand where that came from—my mother’s father never served, nor did either of her grandparents. But later I would understand that my mother did not have to have a vested interest in something to care about it. Her life was no bed of roses, but the fact that she was able to have compassion for so many other people was one of her greatest traits. She was evolved enough as a human to understand that things outside of her immediate world mattered.
Recently, I stood on the corner of Route 25A and Route 112 in Port Jefferson listening to Camillo Mac Bica from Veterans for Peace speak about the endless wars we are involved in, and of the countless men and women who were paying the ultimate price for those wars. I was moved to tears when he asked a question that I am quite sure all of us have asked ourselves on at least one occasion: “Is what I am doing making a difference?” He then spoke about a woman who had asked him during the march if he felt there was any hope, and his reply was, “I don’t know.” I was instantly struck by his honesty.
We would all like to believe that what we are doing is going to change the conversation at the very least, but I think all of us who protest the wars ultimately hope we will change the way people look at them and as a result, they will end. The reality is, that may never happen—and we may have to learn to accept that. It might have to be enough for us to go out and participate in these marches only because it is the right and moral thing to do. We might not change policy and we might not even change anyone’s mind. Living our conscience may have to be enough.
Camillo yelled into the crowd that he does not understand how people can be so apathetic, going about their days as if none of these atrocities are taking place. I felt his rage, as I know many of my activist friends have. People walked by us almost unaware as we held up the pictures of the Soldiers, Marines, Airmen and Sailors from Long Island who have been killed since the start of the war in Afghanistan. It can be maddening at times. Why should we bother doing this if nobody is listening? But Camillo continued on to say that he does not do these actions because he likes to, he does them because he has to—they are his penance for killing during the Vietnam War. He ended his speech with something I truly believe with every fiber of my being: If we, as a country, continue allowing our troops to fight in illegal and immoral wars, the blood is not only on their hands, but on ours as well. We cannot continue turning a blind eye to the suicides, the addiction problems, the lack of health care, the homelessness and a myriad of other issues that plague these men and women after they return home, and still say we “Support the Troops.” The ultimate way we can support them is by valuing their lives enough to not put them in harm’s way unless absolutely necessary.
So, as Camillo rallied us to join him in his quest to “rave to the grave”—even if nobody else is listening—I was reminded of something else Anne said about my mother.
“She never had the chance to change the world but she did change ONE person in this world, me.”
About the Author: Cynthia Cone is an Ex Con with no college education and very bad punctuation. She is currently living in Long Island, NY where she pays extremely high taxes and likes to drink.
Contact Cynthia at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photography Credits: Matt Farrara