When I was a young girl, my mom would write what she called “poison pen letters”. If she was upset about something—service in a restaurant, perhaps—she’d write a letter about it. I saw how her words went into the world and made things happen—sometimes the restaurant would offer a free meal (or at least a free dessert!) And sometimes these changes benefited more than our own family. As chair of the PTA safety committee, my mom started letter writing campaigns that led to a traffic light being installed in a dangerous intersection near my elementary school, and guns and ammunition being removed from our local Kmart. These changes happened because a bunch of women sat together in a lunch room and put words to paper—an important lesson for me to witness as a budding writer.
It continues to be important to me to make a difference in the world through my writing, whether it’s through my novels, or my poetry, or the writing I do for CODEPINK. My mom called her pens poison, but I like to think of ink as something that can heal, that can inspire, that can open people’s eyes and minds and hearts. I want to use my writing to expose injustice, but also to show what people can do to make things better. I want to remind us that we’re all part of the same human story, and we all need to do what we can to write ourselves a brighter and more compassionate future.
--Gayle Brandeis is the author of several books; her first novel, The Book of Dead Birds, won Barbara Kingsolver’s Bellwether Prize for Fiction in Support of a Literature of Social Change, and she was named a Writer Who Makes a Difference by The Writer Magazine. You can learn more about her and her work at www.gaylebrandeis.com
Jeanmarie Simpson developed a play based on the life of Jeanette Rankin, the first female member of Congress and the only legislator to vote against entry into both World Wars. CODEPINK is honored to present her play, Flight of the Dove, as part of our Create, Not Hate campaign. This picture of Jeanmarie with Judd Nelson was taken on the set of the film version of A Single Woman in 2006.
Jeanmarie on why she is an activist:
We’re all one family. As cliche as that is, I feel it down to my bones. When I approach people as strangers, I become a stranger. When I approach them as friends, I’m a friend and I’m surrounded by friends. I have, in my middle age, discovered that I really can appreciate everyone. I mean, really. We’re all flawed, we’re all human, but we’re also awfully interesting. We’re all related. And we all deserve the very basics. Healthy food, clean water, shelter, clothing, heating in the winter, cooling in the heat of the summer and health care. This is why I am a peace activist. “Peace begins with respect,” said wise and wonderful Quaker, Patsy Gehr, whom I met some years ago. When we respect each other and recognize that we each deserve the very basics, at least, and that reference to the “haves” and the “have nots” should not include that which is necessary to survive, we can begin to relate to each other as what we are – part of the same, beautiful family. And once we get to thinking about it, we realize that war, militarism and all of the “power over” structures built into global society today are detrimental to our health and well being. So we adjust our attitude and the world becomes a whole lot friendlier place and there’s no one we don’t want to comfort and protect.