My brothers and I always knew where the real power lay in our family. Our dad was hot-headed and temperamental. He would blow up equally over a D on a report card, a kid getting caught smoking in the woods or milk spilled at the dinner table.
Behind his back we called him Old Yeller. In self-defense, we learned to tune him out.
In contrast, our mom was calm and steady.
If you walked in the house with blood dripping from a split lip after a fall off your bike, she’d tell you to calm down and put a wet washcloth on it. If you got in trouble in school, she’d tell you learn from it and move on.
She was chill before anybody knew what that meant. So, when mom got angry, whoa, we straightened right up.
I suspect she was far from exceptional. In most families, kids know you don’t mess with Mom.
And that’s why the Wall of Moms is formidable.
We’re months into the pandemic that has disproportionately affected the lives and livelihoods of moms. They are expected to keep working, home-school their children, bake banana bread and put up with the rank disrespect coming from Mitch McConnell suggesting they’re all just lazy gold-brickers lounging about on unemployment.
Then, when their kids take to the streets to call for an end to racism and police brutality and end up getting beaten, rounded up by camo-clad goons, and blinded by rubber bullets, it should come as no surprise to kids and former kids everywhere that the moms are spittin’ mad.
They were on their last nerve before they saw kids being hauled away in unmarked vehicles. Now they’ve had quite enough.
Wall of Moms chapters are exploding in cities across the country, including Denver and Aurora, and beyond putting their bodies on the line to protect peaceful demonstrators, the moms are suing the federal government for violating their civil rights.
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The Wall of Moms organizers have made it clear they are acting in support of the leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement. Many are white women marching in solidarity with the Black moms who have been risking their safety in demonstrations for weeks … for years.
The sight of George Floyd begging for his life, calling for “Mama,” galvanized the movement. That image is never far from their thoughts.
It inspires them to do it for their kids, for every mother’s kids. Even tear gas won’t make them back down. They simply put on masks and ski goggles.
The Trump campaign, meanwhile, is oblivious.
It’s counting on moms, specifically those Trump refers to as “suburban housewives,” to reverse his plummeting poll numbers. He is using racism and fearmongering in a misguided attempt to rally white women to support him.
He’s living in an alternate reality.
In the real world, urban and suburban moms not only are on the front lines in protecting protesters, they are in the hospitals and long-term care facilities treating COVID-19 patients. They’re scrounging for PPE, leaving their virus-laden scrubs in the garage before walking into their homes each day, and working in essential jobs at great risk to themselves and their families.
They are left dangling in uncertainty only days away from the start of the school year, wondering if they will be expected to home-school their kids or risk exposing them to the virus in classrooms, and trying to figure out how to work simultaneously so they can still pay the rent.
They are enduring pay cuts, shortened work weeks, unpaid furloughs or just plain being laid off from jobs with airlines, restaurants, health care industries, school districts and retail operations.
And, they’ve watched in horror as moms who dared to stray from the stereotype of the shallow racist “suburban housewife” – moms like Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Russia expert Fiona Hill, U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Sen. Tammy Duckworth – have been insulted, demeaned and ridiculed.
As the tributes to Sen. John Lewis ring in our ears and we are reminded of the importance of causing “good trouble” in the service of justice and decency, moms are linking arms and showing us how it’s done. They wear yellow and have inspired a Wall of Dads to come to demonstrations brandishing leaf-blowers to dispel clouds of tear gas. (It’s the first time I’ve appreciated leaf-blowers – ever.)
The Wall of Moms phenomenon just keeps growing.
One mom marching for justice for Elijah McClain in Aurora last week wore a T-shirt that said, ominously, “Mom is here.”
The message is clear. She’s mad as hell and she’s looking right at you.
Mom is here. Straighten up.
Diane Carman is a Denver communications consultant.
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