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March 10, 2007 / Perspective / Checkin’ in with...

Helen Selsdon, anti-war mom

The Brooklyn Paper
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There’s an element of American Kabuki in most protest marches: every six months or so, the “antis” march on Washington. But in reality, the protests are more about raising awareness of the anti-whatever group than the cause that we’re all supposed to be anti. Enter Helen Selsdon. She’s not a leader of an anti-anything group. She’s just a Cobble Hill mom who had a simple idea — Stop the war — and is now trying to spread the word by organizing a protest march from her neighborhood to Park Slope. She isn’t quite sure if anyone will show up to her March 25 rally at 1:30 in Carroll Park (email brooklynmum@gmail.com for information), but Selsdon checked in this week with Gersh Kuntzman anyway.

Q: So you’re just a mom who’s outraged?

A: It’s true, I’m a total nobody. Really. I’m just one person who is annoyed about this war. I travel a lot outside America and it’s hard for Americans to remember that there’s a whole world out there.

Q: Large groups like Brooklyn Parents for Peace at least have mailing lists and volunteers. What are you doing to get the word out?

A: Well, I was at the Kinko’s the other day making flyers and a woman started talking to me and getting inspired. She said she’d bring a lot of people. That’s how it has to work. This month, we enter the fifth year of this war. Everyone I know is outraged, so we have to show it.

Q: But why? After all, the elected officials you hope to persuade here in Brooklyn all agree with you for the most part.

A: Now you sound like my daughter, who’s 10.

Q: I was just playing Devil’s advocate. But what did your daughter do?

A: I told her we have to get out on the street and protest and she said, “What’s the point?” And I said, “Maybe there is no ‘point,’ but the least we can do is get out and show people that we’re outraged.”

Q: But do these kinds of things work? Rumsfeld resigned, but the war goes on. The American death toll hit 3,000, but the war goes on. The president got “a thumping” in the election, but the war goes on. What is your march going to do?

A: Well, for one thing, it’ll give people a rallying point around the anniversary of the invasion. And it’ll give us all a chance to say, “We’re sick of this.” I know how this sounds, but I was inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr. He just stood up, and he changed things. Why shouldn’t we all do that? We can change things. I don’t have an answer, but if people see that a single mom can organize this, they’ll see that they can organize marches everywhere.

Q: OK, if your daughter goes, I’ll go.

A: She’s going. I told her, “It may be a waste of time, but we have to do it.”

Updated 4:27 pm, July 9, 2018
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