Memorial Day: You cant see change when its happening

Out walking with my dog this morning, down the street from the local Catholic college, we passed a couple of yards strewn with blue plastic beer cups, left over from a night of graduation celebrations. A scene replicated on campuses and surrounding neighborhoods across America, as Memorial Day weekend is a traditional time for college graduations.

Around the corner, this quiet sunny holiday morning, a woman was planting tomato seedlings in front of her house, and a man sat on his shady porch eating breakfast cereal as the birds chirped in the trees and bushes. A grill and bag of charcoal sat waiting in a backyard.

Down in Philadelphia, Celeste Zappala, whom I’ve interviewed several times over the past few years, wrote on her Facebook page this weekend about her son, Sherwood Baker, killed in Iraq five years ago. I recall she told me how Sherwood had joined the National Guard because he had seen them helping sandbag against floods in Wilkes-Barre, and he wanted to serve his community like that.

Where are we at in America this Memorial Day? Young people stepping out into the future, a mother mourning her son lost in a war based on lies. Planting gardens, cutting the grass, barbecue in the afternoon.

Life goes on. Customs endure. Yet change has come in our country. And more is coming. How do I know? Most of the time you can’t see change when it’s happening. There are the big events that everyone notices. The beginnings of wars. 9/11. Stock market crashes. Presidential elections.

But the tides of history surge as ordinary people take stock, grapple with their problems, look around them, shift their thinking. It may be imperceptible, but it’s happening.

It took three decades. People had to think things through. They tried the flight-suit-on-the-aircraft-carrier way. They tried the drown-the-government, ownership-society way. They tried the “moral values” way. Finally, they had enough. They elected the most progressive president in my lifetime. (I was born a year after Franklin Delano Roosevelt died.)

Now, people have to think things through some more. They have to see some good things happening, some results, things that point the way forward. And if you want to make more change, you have to be part of this. Cynicism will get you nowhere. Complaining about the most progressive president you’ve ever had will not help move forward the partying college grad or the woman planting tomatoes or the man eating cereal on his porch or the laid off steelworker at your neighbor’s barbecue.

You can’t see change when it’s happening and when you are in it. But you need to be in it, with the college student, the laid off steelworker at the barbecue, the woman planting her garden, the man sitting on his porch. These are the people who will make the changes we need.

suewebb @


Susan Webb
Susan Webb

Susan Webb is a retired co-editor of People's World. She has written on a range of topics both international - the Iraq war, World Social Forums in Brazil and India, the Israel-Palestinian conflict and controversy over the U.S. role in Okinawa - and domestic - including the meaning of socialism for Americans, attacks on Planned Parenthood, the U.S. as top weapons merchant, and more.