MAR 2022- From Fear to Courage
Protest against Rosenburgs' Execution, New York, 1953
My mother told me we were going to join the march to protest the execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. I was terrified. I’d heard about the violence perpetrated by angry bystanders against people protesting outside of Sing Sing Prison. If I could have figured out a way to say no, I would have, but my mother framed it as a moral obligation and I knew, despite my fear, she was right.
Protest Against Rosenberg Execution
We took the subway into Manhattan and joined a crowd of people already marching. Just as I feared, people, mostly young men, were shouting curses and anti-Semitic remarks, hurling bottles and cans, threatening to kill us all. My mother, angry at the injustice of the execution and the taunts from the bystanders, speaking from years of attending protest marches, said, “Ignore them. They feed on your fear.”
Easier said than done. I couldn’t stop shaking, especially after a bottle hit the man marching next to me, seeing the blood gush from his head. A woman put her handkerchief against the wound and suggested he leave, but he refused. “I’m not letting those bastards win.”
My shaking got so bad I could hardly walk. I felt like I was going to throw up. Then, from behind, I heard singing. As people heard they joined in. I knew the song. Knew the words. “We shall not, we shall not be moved. We shall not, we shall not be moved. Just like a tree that’s standing in the water, we shall not be moved. “
People around me sang, their voices strong and clear. I began to sing with them, and as my voice found its power, my fear disappeared. I felt proud to be part of history, part of thousands of people protesting injustice. For the rest of the march, I walked with newly found resolution. When I saw a can coming toward me I deflected it. It seemed that as the curses and yells grew stronger, and the bottles and cans more numerous, my courage strengthened.
I took my mother’s hand and squeezed it. She squeezed back, smiling her approval. One of the few times in my life that my mother and I were in accord, doing what we knew was right, in the company of thousands who were marching for justice.
What gives you courage in a difficult situation?
3/3/2022 11:56:49 am
Another touching and beautiful story from Nancy. When I first saw the photo with the crowds I thought it was in reference to the war on Ukraine. Things don't seem to change much. Even though the issues are completely different, it demonstrates how people need to express their feelings as a group to injustices. It is so primal. There is a particularly poignancy to the electrocution of a woman and a Jew especially a few years after WWII. And a husband and wife, especially on their wedding anniversary is uniquely heinous. Any kind of murder whether one person against another or in the name of the state is inhuman and inhumane. I have to admit that I have had some murderous thoughts these last few days, but could I ever carry it out? I don't know and I hope that I never find myself in that kind of situation, but we don't seem to have come very far since the end of WWII. You really made that march come alive and it was a sweet story about you and your mom connecting in such a positive way. I was very touched.
I guess I am able to remember who I am in the midst of adversity. It is the bodily experience of the difficulty that shows me the contrast to who I really am and I can let it be and send it kindness. Not easy. I also think of all the sh-- I've been through and think, "I'm a tough old broad". And, "it could be worse".
3/4/2022 06:56:11 pm
you really were part of history. something to be proud of. you learned courage that day.
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