Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Coming of Rage (with thanks to KBE)

"When leaders act contrary to conscience, we must act contrary to leaders."—Veterans Fast for Life

The other day I was having lunch with a friend who is about my age. Like most of us watching the news, she felt discouraged about economic inequity and our increasingly poisoned environment, confiding that she felt powerless about them. This is a common feeling among Americans these days, as Congress and their backroom committees ignore the greater good of our country in favor of rich lobbyists. (Mind you, I'm not saying Congresspeople and the rich are badjust their behavior.)

I assured her that there actually was something we could do. It involves a spunky organization dedicated to righting wrongs—The Raging Grannies. The Raging Grannies was formed 24 years ago in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada and continues to fight for truth and justice to this day. These wonderful women storm federal or regional venues to protest anything that could negatively affect the lives of their or other people’s grandchildren.
Move over, Hell's Angels. the Raging Grannies are in town.

Word of advice: Never get between a grandmother and her descendants.

The Raging Grannies quickly spread across Canada and down into the United States. The charter members were middle-class, educated and between the ages of 52 and 67. They had held occupations such as anthropologist, teacher, businesswoman, counselor, artist, homemaker and librarian. Originally part of a peace group, these women resented the sexism and age-ism within that group; members ignored their ideas and relegated them to making coffee. (Well, looks like someone needed to learn some manners.) Some of the women had a history of activism; some had none. Exercising the assertiveness often gained with age, they split off to form their own group.

The first action by the Raging Grannies took place on February 14, 1987 when they delivered an Un-Valentine to their Member of Parliament, Pat Crofton, then Chairman of the Defense Committee. The Un-Valentine was a broken heart symbolizing his lack of commitment and action on nuclear issues. (How thoughtful!) They wrote satirical lyrics to a lullaby for the occasion, which they sang crouching under an umbrella full of holes, a metaphor for the absurdity of taking shelter under a nuclear umbrella. Two weeks later, they joined a protest at the British Columbia legislature during the government hearings on uranium mining. The (are-we-taking-ourselves-a-little-too-seriously?) legislators were caught off guard when the Grannies showed up armed with a laundry basket containing a clothesline of women's underwear. Their presentation or "briefs" for the hearing were inside the panties. The crowd loved it, it drew media coverage and the Grannies realized the potential of the Raging Granny figure.

"If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable."—Louis D. Brandeis

Naturally, these women are my role models. They defy a society that devalues the experience of elderly women and pushes them aside. To the contrary, they boldly reclaim the primordial role of elders as leaders. And they do it so sweetly! Here are some of their escapades:
  • Riding to a military base in a horse-drawn carriage filled with flowers to voice their protest of nuclear submarines in a floral way. They were turned away at the gates. Nuclear submarines were welcome at the docks; flowers were not
  • Calling on the first trade show of high-tech military products in Victoria, which the organizers wanted to keep secret. Entrance to the event was free for those wearing military uniforms, so the Grannies got out their veterans’ uniforms or made them with things like cellophane and all kinds of gaudy baubles. Predictably, they were refused entrance, but they haggled long enough to attract cameras which revealed the “secret” event on the evening news
  • Nothing says Civil Disobedience like your neighborhood grandmother.
  • Enlisting for military service at the Armed Forces Recruitment Office as the threat of war in the Gulf loomed.  Baffled recruiters were unable by law to ask the Grannies their age,  so they went through the necessary paperwork straight-faced. One Granny was even invited back for a math test. A week later, knitting needles and wool in hand, the granny returned in her quest to qualify as a maritime officer. She displayed typical Grannies’ humor, describing herself “as a person who is experienced in conflict resolution. I qualify because I lived with a man for 40 years and brought up children”
"If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality."—Bishop Desmond Tutu

Grannies typically generate publicity for their protests by writing funny lyrics to old songs and performing them for the news media and whomever else may be in the vicinity. So in their honor, I have written a brief protest song below. These lyrics should be sung to the tune of My Bonnie Lies O’er the Ocean. I have renamed this tune, (Fukushima) Daiichi Lies O’er the Ocean.

Daiichi Lies O’er the Ocean by the Jersey Rantor

Logo of the Westchester, NY, Raging Grannies.
Dai-i-chi lies o'er the ocean
Dai-i-chi drifts o'er the sea
From West Coast across to New Jersey
Dai-i-chi brings fallout to me.

Bring back, bring back, air that is isotope-free, to me
Hazmat my Red Hat, rads are not my cup of tea!

Doesn't that make you want to grab your shawl, pick up your knitting needles and take a pleasant stroll to the nearest protest?

The Raging Grannies website welcomes visitors with: “Please, pour yourself a cup of tea and join us. . . We are out in the streets promoting peace, justice, (and) social and economic equality through song and humour.” You do not have to have children or grandchildren to be a Raging Granny. You just have to be a mature woman with fire in your soul who wants to make a difference in the world while having a few laughs. According to the Raging Grannies International website, there is not currently a “gaggle” of Raging Grannies in New Jersey. The parent organization provides starter kits and collaboration for new groups. Anybody game?


  1. I am this point, anyone who is not "raging", is not paying attention

    Besides, my kids already call me a "rebel"

  2. I think we both got that from our fathers. I will see if anyone else shows interest, then organize a meeting.