Polly Letofsky and Robert Sweetgall: My Latest Inspirations

Robert Sweetgall and Polly Letofsky have both accomplished amazing feats.   I am in awe.  Seriously.

Robert Sweetgall walked across America seven times, circumnavigated the contiguous 48 states once, and even walked through or at least inside of all 50 states in a year long trek–over 11000 miles–that would make the most seasoned SEAL team member cry for his mama.  He averaged 31 miles a day, day in and day out, seven days a week.  Now, he wasn’t able to walk that many miles every day, which means he walked even more on the other days.  One day, he walked 59 miles!  Can you even imagine that?  That just boggles my mind.

Polly Letofsky, on the other hand, not only walked across America, but she walked through over 20 other countries, too, to be the first American woman to walk around the globe.  It took her over 14,000 miles and five years.  She walked through all kinds of terrible conditions, experienced different cultures, and was walking through Malaysia, a mostly Muslim country, when the towers fell in New York on 9/11.

Both people walked for their passions.  Sweetgall was trying to raise awareness about the wonders of walking being a fitness tool.  He wanted to show people that simply planting one foot in front of the other could improve their health and their lives immeasurably.  He managed to help schools implement pilot walking programs and the whole country followed his progress week by week in the newspapers.  Letofsky was raising money for the battle against breast cancer.  She raised $250,000, an impressive feat.

People have told me that to walk across America I should have a cause.  One walker (for the life of me, I can’t remember who said it) said something to the effect that to walk across the continent without trying to help a cause is an act of selfishness.  All that energy could be poured into something that helps people, and to not do so is a waste.  That was probably a bad paraphrase, but that’s basically the gist.

I’ve been told people would respond more positively, and I would be better able to raise money.  But I have a hard time with that concept.  It’s like saying I need an excuse to do something as big as this.  I don’t.  But I also have trouble with the idea for an even bigger reason:  I don’t want my entire trip to be marred by anger and frustration.

The things that I care about, the things that I desperately want to see change are things that seriously tick me off.  When I think about them, I get angry.  And dealing with people who don’t get why I’m angry makes me more angry.   When people deny there are problems that to me are self-evident, or they believe exactly the opposite of what I do, I just want to bang my head against a wall.  Going out and “discussing” these things in public would up my anxiety and stress quotients to ridiculous levels.  I don’t want to be an angry person.

Raising funds for cancer research is a good and worthwhile goal.  Many of the people listed to the right of this post in my links walked just for that reason.  But I would be bored to tears within a month or two talking about it.  It isn’t close to my heart, like it is to these people, many of whom have had cancer touch their lives in a very real and personal way.  But for me right now, I definitely can’t imagine spending five years of my time walking around the world trying to spread the word!

I could spend five years preaching about the things that seriously matter to me–eradicating violence against women, equalizing gender roles (people get shafted by their gender roles, no matter their gender), secularism/humanism, gay rights, eradicating poverty in America, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  The religious right honestly frightens me.   But some of these things are topical to the United States only.  I don’t think I would want to walk around the entire world to encourage Americans to get the powers that be to give up their precious power (strike down the Patriot Act, for example).  It ain’t gonna happen.

However, I was discussing what Polly Letofsky and Robert Sweetgall did with my sister on Facebook.  In the discussion, I had a realization:

  “One thing I am that ardent about is feminism–women taking charge of their own lives and not living in fear…but unfortunately, that sort of message would not go over well in certain countries and I would actually fear for my life walking if I was spouting that message. Maybe that’s all the more reason to do it, but I don’t know if I’m willing to put my life where my mouth is. Is that hypocritical? Is that cowardly?…Oh shit. That means it needs to be done. Somebody needs to do it. Is that somebody me? I don’t know. …Waaaah!”

My sister got very excited at this prospect.  She wanted to do it, too!  She joked that we could create the Sisters for the Promotion of Equal Rights for Mankind (SPERM) and raise money for that.  Hah!   I about peed my pants laughing.  She’s so funny!  Then I pointed out that “mankind” is kind of a non-pc word for a feminist organization.  But humankind doesn’t make a fun acronym (SPERH).

But still, I come down to the whole anger thing.   Spending years doing something like this and living that anger almost daily?  The things that matter to me, the problems that strike a chord and that I want to change are the ones that increase my stress, make me angry, and could potentially get me killed.  I suppose that means it’s important that they get done.  Doesn’t it?

So now I’m daydreaming and thinking of all the possibilities, while simultaneously wondering why I would want to put myself through that.  Because?  Because… This vitriol is why.

Anybody have any fun acronyms I can consider for a feminist/humanist organization?  I was thinking maybe- Developing Inroads to Leadership in Direct Opposition to Sociopaths (BLEEPED).  That would be a “let’s get progressive women elected and take back politics from the tea party crazies” PAC.  Hm.  Maybe not.  How about Feminists United to Create Keystone Educational Demonstrations (BLEEPED).  No, maybe not.   (Is it juvenile to think it would be absolutely hilarious to have uptight politicians have to say the entire organization’s name so they don’t have to use the acronym?  Yeah?  Okay.  I’m juvenile.  And I can’t help wondering if newspapers would print the acronym anyway…)

Other suggestions?

I must be nuts.


2 thoughts on “Polly Letofsky and Robert Sweetgall: My Latest Inspirations

  1. Wow! It’s on Amazon?! Back in 2008 when I read this book, it was exceedingly difficult to find. Of course, I was looking in libraries. I don’t recall if I checked Amazon, lol.

    Yes, Helga Etsby and her daughter were incredibly brave. Those women were amazing! I can’t imagine crossing a continent when there are no ROADS. They couldn’t even follow train tracks the whole way, because their crossing predated the railroads from the east and west joining. The book was terribly sad and I sooo felt for them. Practically disowned by their family, and didn’t even get the $10,000 from the wager on a technicality. Then her family tried to destroy any evidence the walk ever existed. How horrible.

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