Showing Up In the Body At The Rally

The rally last weekend was under clear blue skies. A middle aged white man in a fleece jacket and khaki pants addressed the crowd from the pulpit. Pulpit? Yes. "Every world religion castigates its followers to be wise stewards. We are charged with the care and keeping of ourselves, our families and our earth. Without the clean air and pure water of our planetary home, we could not survive to glorify god."

I was bemused, standing next to my new friend Cinnamon, hip length red dreadlocks, big husky dog on a leash, and well-used bicycle.

We had not stumbled across a church meeting. We were at a Provo, Utah clean air rally.

The previous week the air quality had gotten to "red." When I dropped the girls off at school, a placard outside announced "Inside Day." When the air is this bad-- grey-yellow and soupy-- the children can't play outside.

Kids with asthma and allergies are encouraged to stay home; to stay inside.

As if walls and 60 year old insulation and some crumbly plaster forms some kind of filter to the sinus-coating particulates outside.

The baby's snot was gray.

My middle child got sick. She was up all night heaving, trying to breathe, chest rising and falling, ribs prominent. Each intake of breath was a little yelp.

We spent the next day at the hospital. Lung X-rays, throat cultures, a horrific tube jabbed up her nose, she screamed as it went up into her sinuses.

Children waste away so quickly-- three or four days with no appetite and my healthy 1st grader suddenly looks gaunt-- big brown eyes prominent in her ashy face, pants loose around her waist. It takes so little to diminish her already-smallness into real tinyness.

My fear crescendoed. I took action: radical diet changes. Anti-inflammatory foods only, immune-boosting goodies loaded into the pantry. And on Saturday, while the kids stayed home and watched shows, I went to the clean air rally.

The worst of the pollution had blown away-- good for our lungs, bad for our rhetoric. But the heavy lifting of the rally was as subdued and politic as a sermon-- a collegiate plea for moral earth-care. BYU professors encouraged stewardship, as God charged Adam to care for his garden. A sleekly-dressed non-profit spokesperson in a tailored jacket and pearls encouraged us to come to the capital and to engage in the conversations with our legislators that would guide the state towards cleaner air.

Meanwhile, black-face-masked anarchists crept widdershins along the perimeter of the crowd, handing out mimeographed scraps of paper stamput  with "Air Warriors" and muttering: we do this all year. I thanked the skinny young guy who gave me his. He had scraps of cloth pinned to his black hoodie and silver chains looping over his skinny butt in shredded black jeans.  He looked ready to punch a nazi. Good. It takes all sorts, I think. The patchouli-scented hippies with their tricked out bikes, the worried moms like me, the straight-edger anarchists and the clean BYU students.

I'm trying to be more physically present with politics. I'm trying to use my body, and not be satisfied the non-thing that is digital slacktivism. I'm using my larynx, my soft-palate, my teeth to talk to my representatives. I'm using my legs, shins, and feet to stand in protests, show up at rallies, and lift up my hands and face with other people in prayer and protest. I cannot rely on anyone else's bodies to take up my space for me. I may be just a dot in a population-- a single pixel. I have to show up. I can't just stay home, stay inside on red days, and watch my baby struggle to breathe.


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