Hand. Hand.

In 1986, my mother took the train down to New York City to participate in Hands Across America, a fundraising initiative that involved about 6.5 million people who came together on May 25 of that year to stand hand in hand, attempting to make an unbroken chain of people across the continent, raising about $34 million dollars to fight hunger, homelessness, and poverty. At the time, I rolled my twenty-something-year-old eyes at her and at this impossibly hokey event. Puh-leez.  Now when we visit, she and I look over the photographs of all the places she’d been and things she’s done. She is 96 now, and we get to the ones from Hands Across America, I have to explain, every time, what this was. And every time, I choke up. My still-jaundiced, still-ironic self now finds that impossibly hokey event incredibly moving, incredibly sweet. Silly, perhaps, but sweet. And not without significance. And wonder if we as a country are past that kind of simple act, millions of people amassing to hold hands with strangers who hold hands with strangers who hold hands with strangers all across the stretch of the country. As if we were one. As if we were all in this fucking thing together.

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5 thoughts on “Hand. Hand.

  1. Thanks for the reminder, Marilyn. Our fragmentation as a nation is increasingly frightening. There are still some movements that can draw a lot of people, such as the climate march in Sept. 2014, but that draws from a specific segment of society, not like Hands across America, which was really meant to reach across boundaries. Sending well-wishes to you and your mom. Ninety-six years is amazing.

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    • If you think about it, Hands Across America was actually quite subversive in that through its seemingly simple gesture it attracted people from across the political spectrum without doing so particularly obviously.

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      • True, and, in that timeframe, there was more expectation that people could co-operate even though they differed politically. I still believe that, although co-operation is sadly not much in evidence these days.

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      • Actually, I think the idea that the country had some kind of time when we were less divided isn’t really accurate. We’ve always had divisions and vitriole. We just have more media now.

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      • Yes, there have always been divisions. I was thinking more about polarization that has caused such lack of co-operation in government. Congress used to manage to craft bipartisan laws. The number of bills getting passed is much lower than it used to be. Granted, the current Congress isn’t quite as bad as the pre-Civil War period, but it is definitely the least productive in my lifetime.

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