“I’ve been locked up (for disturbing the peace in Detroit) and I know you got to disturb the peace when you can’t get no peace. Jail is hell to be in. I’m going to see her free if there is any justice in our courts, not because I believe in communism, but because she’s a Black woman and she wants freedom for Black people.”

—Aretha Franklin (on posting bail for Angela Davis in 1970)

 [ Issue 2018.47; Cover art © 2018 Saleha Chowdhury ]

Issue 2018.47

Short stories

Poetry

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The first time I heard about the French Revolution it was in history class, quite a few years ago. I can still remember the thrill of my very young self, living out the feelings and thoughts of those fighters. Sat at my desk, I lost myself in daydreaming, thinking how exhilarating it must have been to finally change an unjust status quo that for so, so long had seemed immutable. We need that spirit again. We have other intolerable injustices to fight against. We have new forms of servitude and privilege to eradicate.

Growing up, I had to accept that the French Revolution had several dark sides and a very infuriating political development. I stopped picturing myself running through the streets of a turned-upside-down Paris inflamed by fire and hope, and shouting with ferocious joy “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité” to all my fellow fighters. But I never stopped admiring how beautifully simple, and yet consistent and meaningful, were those three words. I am still fascinated at how they complement and enrich each other; how they only make sense if they are taken together. We cannot be free if we are not equal. And we will never have the same rights and opportunities if we are not free to say what we think, to travel or start a life somewhere else in the world, to express safely ourselves, our beliefs and preferences. But my favorite has always been the third one: brother- and sisterhood. Because I have always had the impression that without solidarity, revolutions lose their way. It’s easy to put aside kindness when you are fighting, any kind of battle. Battles require endless energy, attention, thinking, strategizing. But when we decide to join the revolution, we should never forget that we are fighting because none of us can be free until we are all free, none of us can truly have rights, if others don’t. And we should never let the ugliness of the battle roughen us from the inside. As another, more contemporary, revolutionary that managed to overturn a fascist regime said, “we ought to be hard, but without losing our tenderness.” Without ever forgetting kindness.

There are many ways to embrace the revolution, as the authors in this issue show us. One can join urban guerrilla and hit the enemy where it hurts the most—in their carefully crafted public image—for example. But there are many different battles that need to be fought. Sometimes your revolution is getting through the day, proudly wearing a skin that makes too many around you uncomfortable. Sometimes it can be refusing to fulfill the expectations of what happiness, duty or love is; and to use satire to show how ridiculous and harmful stereotypes can be. Your revolution could choose a way that not even the other fighters yet recognise as useful or valuable, but it’s your way and you have no intention of giving it up. And if you can find at least one ally, then you won’t have risked everything in vain. But, even more importantly, our stories here also tell us that revolutions are not simply “against something,” they are “with someone,” they create sisterhoods and brotherhoods of people who want things to change and to be better for all. Rebelling, in the end, against those who know that we can be ruled and oppressed better when we are divided. We won’t be fooled. We will go to war together, strong in our differences, determined to be free, equal and solid.

Whatever your way of fighting to change things, we hope you will enjoy these beautiful stories of battle and love, of identities and belonging. Be inspired by the words of Amelia, Brian, Harry, Hayley, Isabelle, Meghan and Rufina,and the great illustrations by Carmen, Eric, Fluffgar, Katharine, Laura Anca, Miguel and Saleha.

To our past, present and future victories.

Valeria Vitale, November 2018

Comment on the stories in this issue on the TFF Press blog.

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