A First for Elli and Me

In a few days Elli and I will celebrate our 43rd wedding anniversary. I was so young, two weeks shy of my 21st birthday, that I couldn’t get married in the State of Maryland without my parents’ notarized permission. Since then we’ve been involved in a range of public activities, sometimes as individuals, and at others, as a couple. We first collaborated as SDS militants in college. Later Elli, as a member of the Springfield Woman’s Union helped organize Mudpie Childcare Cooperative, and I staffed it one morning a week for four years when our kids were little. In the 1980’s we engaged in struggles to free Central American countries from North American exploitation. But we saved our biggest duet for last. While I’ve been the public face of the Rosenberg Fund for Children (RFC) since its founding in 1990, Elli has played a critical role in many aspects of its work for over 20 years.

During all this time I have given more newspaper, radio, TV and now online interviews than I can recall. Elli also has done many of her own, especially since the publication of her first novel, House Arrest, earlier this year. But we’ve never been interviewed together. That changed last night when Elli and I engaged in a conversation with Graham and Barbara Dean on their radio program (“Common Sense Songs,” 8PM, Wednesdays, WBCR, 97.7FM, Great Barrington, MA).

We had an entire hour, but the time flew by. We have a lot of experience with and much to say about a constellation of subjects that I think of as “parenting and politics.” We draw upon my childhood experiences, our relationship, our juggling child-rearing with political lives, and our teaming up on a project that has helped hundreds of children who have been impacted by their parents’ activism. Neither of us accepts the idea that parents should not work to change the world because their struggles could adversely affect their children. But we are keenly aware of the terrible price children may pay for their parents’ actions, even if that activism is motivated by a desire to make a better world for their children. We share cross-cutting perspectives that can be difficult to convey coherently.

Beyond that, we’ve used different vehicles to make our points. Elli’s book is a work of fiction, but to a large degree it focuses on how parents’ decisions, even those made from the most deeply felt convictions, can have both positive and negative consequences for their children. The RFC is my attempt to transform the destruction that was visited upon my family into something to benefit families in somewhat similar circumstances today.

I feared our discussion last night might become too fragmented, but I don’t believe that was the case. Even when we took different paths they appeared complementary. As Elli pointed out, in her fiction she seeks to pose questions about the difficult choices faced by parents and families who wish to engage the world. In my work I seek solutions to the consequences of such decisions. We tackle different aspects of the same problem. And we remain determined to advocate on behalf of the children who may face difficulties growing up in the shadow of their parents’ activism, while simultaneously recognizing the laudatory efforts of parents trying build a better world for humanity and their children.

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Robert and Elli: Graham and I were so honored to be the first interviewers to interview you together. I never felt that the discussion might be fragmented, because I saw the commonality in the life you have both led, both separately and together, in your values, and in what you both now do to bring awareness of social injustice and of it's remedy: truth, justice, compassion, consciousness-raising, and the interconnectedness of us all. I was only sorry that one hour seemed much too little to tackle the big things that you have gone through, that you are doing now and that you dream of doing. Your description of positive responses to tragedy and injustice, Robert, as you have done and are doing with the Rosenberg Fund (you call it "constructive revenge"), and your descriptions of people's inner and outer responses to tragic and difficult circumstances in your book "House Arrest", Elli, are two sides of the same coin for me. They are different ways of expressing your ideals, and of affecting people, helping them to figure out things in a good way. So I was not surprised how well each of your statements fit together and mirrored one another. I do hope you will consider coming back again for another interview sometime - we all need to hear your voices more! Thanks so much again, and we wish you all success in the future, and will follow you on your blogs!! (By the way, if you haven't already heard it, listen to the song "My Personal Revenge", written by Tomas Borge and Luis Enrique Mejia Godoy, and recorded by Jackson Browne on "World In Motion"!). With appreciation, Barbara and Graham

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