June 8, 2020

Food for Thought

Just as I was arguing on Facebook that protests are not effective in bringing about real change, my daughter told me she wanted to go join the protest organized by Black Lives Matter starting from Corlears Hook and ending in front of City Hall. On Saturday at noon, we headed to the starting point, which is only a ten-minute walk from our apartment. It was the first real summer day—hot and humid.

Sadly for Annika, she couldn’t go without me because of COVID-19. I was her security escort (not “guard” because I’m not tough enough for that label). I’m sure it would have been more meaningful for her to be with her friends. At fifteen, she already dismisses pretty much everything I believe in, yet not old enough to manage the complex risks of participating in political activism during a pandemic. She is wise enough to know that she can’t fully manage the risks but, at the same time, feels frustrated and can’t wait to become fully independent.

We let the mass of protesters walk ahead of us and kept a safe distance. She consistently walked a few steps ahead of me. I can sense that she wanted to be in the crowd, rallying shoulder to shoulder. I wish she could too; I know the feeling.

Every now and then, the protesters stopped to kneel down. I realized that it’s rather painful to put all my weight on one knee. I had to cheat and put both knees down. Annika was sincere in her posture the whole time. I had to question myself if I had become too cynical in my old age.

It took a few hours to reach City Hall, but the protest continued. Annika knew I was hungry, so she said we can go and thanked me for escorting her. On the way home, we saw that my favorite restaurant in Chinatown, Taiwan Porkchop House, was open for business! Since all the restaurants had shut down, I didn’t have a good reason to step out of my home, but now I do. I wanted to order the entire menu, but I had to restrain myself as I’m supposed to be the adult.

I think this pandemic has been particularly hard for teenagers. They are not supposed to restrain themselves. It’s time for them to experience what lies at the extremes of life, but this invisible threat is keeping them back six feet.