I want to apologize to the woman I snarled at today.
She was standing at the entrance to Harriet Island Park, facing the thousands of people leaving the Labor Day picnic just after John Edwards had spoken. She was small and wore glasses. She carried a poster decrying Kerry's stand on late-term abortions. There was a drawing on the poster.
She looked so unhappy.
I should have commented on that, rather than hanging back from my family and stomping up and scolding her. "This is a FAMILY PICNIC," I snapped at her as she avoided my eyes. "How DARE you stand there with that picture. This is the wrong place and time for that kind of work. How DARE YOU? Shame on you. Shame."
Another woman, encouraged by my outburst, called out, "I don't like it either! I find it offensive!" The woman with the poster shifted her shoulders in her cheap dress and said nothing. The crowd moved me on, out the gates and out of the park.
I am a good bleeding-heart liberal: I agonized all the way back to the car for publicly scolding someone who was doing something disgusting and offensive. I was thinking about why she was standing there with the poster; did she believe that strongly in it?
I might imagine too much. But in my mind I saw a woman bullied into doing the most thankless and humiliating job her organization can come up with. I saw her considering each act of verbal abuse a penance or a point in her favor on some cosmic accounting sheet. I saw her believing that the politics of shame and fear and ignorance somehow are stronger and than the politics of knowledge and education and support.
And so I would like to apologize to her. I would like to do it over again and stop and talk with her -- knowing she wouldn't speak at all; I bet that's part of the training. I would say, "I hope you know there are better ways to stop any of this from happening, and it doesn't involve this hot and depressing work. You can work to make contraception available to anyone who wants it. You can work to educate people -- childrens and teens and adults alike -- about reproduction and how they can take charge of it. There is so much work to be done; please don't think that standing here getting yelled at is going to do anything. Let me tell you how you can help."
But I didn't. And I owe her an apology.