- One participant who had been in the Stonewall during the raid recalled," The police rushed us, and that's when I realized this is not a good thing to do, because they got me in the back with a night stick". Another account stated, "I just can't ever get that one sight out of my mind. The cops with the [nightsticks] and the kick line on the other side. It was the most amazing thing.... And all the sudden that kick line, which I guess was a spoof on the machismo... I think that's when I felt rage. Because people were getting smashed with bats. And for what? A kick line."
I've been reading up on the Stonewall Riots tonight, because while thinking about political movements in general I realized that I didn't really know anything about this one other than "Stonewall Inn, lots of people, historical." So I've been reading the Wikipedia article (which is very good, descriptive and thorough and well-written), and feeling this thrill of pride and kinship with these people from a generation ago - especially as they describe the 'something in the air' that led hundreds of hundreds of people to cast off a mantle of shame they had borne for the better part of a century:
- "From going to places where you had to knock on a door and speak to someone through a peephole in order to get in. We were just out. We were in the streets."
- Historian Barry Adam notes, "Every social movement must choose at some point what to retain and what to reject out of its past. What traits are the results of oppression and what are healthy and authentic?"
This is exactly, exactly how I feel right now about this moment in our history. It feels as though this generation, coming out of years of fear-mongering and the denial of responsibility that the Bush administration has encouraged, is recognizing that it cannot continue to retain the worldview that America Is All. It feels as though we are in a moment when we are choosing to leave behind right-wing conservative fear tactics in order to embrace a more mature and empowered view of the world and our place in it as Americans. It feels as though, for 8 years, our "traits of oppression" have been hysteria, blind belief, and imperialism. It feels as though we are willing, as a people, to believe that America can be a place where we put our best instincts ahead of our fears, and make a conscious, collective choice to work towards equality for all people.
It feels as though we are willing, finally, to reject bias, prejudice, cynicism, and blame, and to embrace, for the first time in a generation, the audacity of hope.