‘A revolution does not happen all at once’

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My Lemen grandparents were Lithuanian immigrants who came to this country sometime after 1910 and before 1914.  My grandfather Lemen entered North America in Canada (I think by way of Newfoundland), worked his way across Canada as a laborer and a miner, eventually crossed into the United States, worked his way across the United States as a miner, and ended up in Worcester, Massachusetts.  He got a job at United States Steel, where his friend Frank introduced him to his widowed sister.

By the time I showed up, my grandparents had been divorced for years, but they still came to dinner on Sundays.  They addressed each other formally as Mr. and Mrs. Lemen.  I spent weekends with Grammie Lemen, but I learned nothing about Pa until I  was in high school and he was living with us. It was then that I asked my grandfather why he came to America. Did he plan it?

He laughed. “No,” he said. “I came to America because I was smart-mouthed to the Cossacks.”

“Cossacks?  Russian Cossacks with the capes and swords?”

“Yes.  They rode into our village, and when they asked me something, I replied with a joke.  I was young and didn’t realize that you didn’t do that.  When they left, they took me with them.”

“They could do that?”

“They could do anything they wanted.”

“What happened? How did you survive?”

Pa said, “Lucky for me, I was good with horses.  Very good.  So, the Cossacks kept me with them as their horseman, and they fed me. I was a long time away from my family.”

“They let you go?”

He never directly answered that. To this day, I do not know if Pa was imprisoned and escaped, or if they released him. I asked him if the Cossacks took him during the Russian Revolution, and he smiled and said, “Which one? A revolution does not happen all at once.”

That gave me a lot to think about.

The Russian Revolution did not happen all at once. Most people think the Russian Revolution started in 1917, but 1917 was the year that the Czar abdicated the throne after demonstrators wanting bread took to the streets. Before that happened, there were years of smaller uprisings that set the stage for massive change.

I think we are seeing – and have been seeing for some time – steps toward massive change in this country. Bad change. I am worried for my country. I am worried about the  Supreme Court – a court that gave corporations the same rights as individuals (a small step) and has now given presidents absolute immunity for official acts.  Need I point out that on this court is a man whose wife helped plan the January 6th insurrection? 

Today I went to my friend Jim’s annual 4th of July party.  He lives in Amherst, on the parade route  It’s always a good time and this year was no exception.  But the mood has changed.  After the firetrucks and the antique cars, people got quiet when the political candidates walked by.  And when the “Veterans for Trump” group went by, people stood and turned their backs to them.  I booed, loudly, and thought of my father, who served in Korea.  How could a veteran support a man who has publicly called soldiers who served “suckers and losers”?

Well, take it from a daughter and granddaughter of a couple of suckers and losers who risked their lives for their country. It is the people who are willing to make sacrifices who make a nation great. The only thing  Mr. Trump is willing to sacrifice is democracy, for the sake of his own power.