Anti-Nuclear, Historical Memoir, Political Activist

Courage and “mission fortitude”

Dear Betsy,

You may add one more person to your list of readers. I saw your book lying on our dining table and was soon informed by my wife, Natalia, that you had generously given it to her during her stay in your West Seattle home. My interest was piqued by its title, which I could not imagine relating to today’s use of this term. And certainly it wasn’t, as its content quickly revealed.

You seem to be one of these individuals, almost all female, victimized by the patriarchal era in which you lived. Bright, talented, ambitious, and capable of far more spacious boundaries, you mostly played the role of the times. But your spirit was evident in what you did achieve, and your book is testament.

I, too, have a history of a brief residence in Russia, two years for me, in Moscow. Aside from my all-engaging work as an English teacher, I was primarily an ethnologist, exploring the question  of what 73 years of the Soviet experience did to people, not to mention the centuries of servitude under the Czars. As your book makes clear, there is one overarching lesson from foreign immersion. People are people wherever you find them. The aphorism observes that there is a line in human nature below which we are all the same. Big or small, smart or dull, kind or mean, hopeful or fearful, such as we are, are about the same in proportion everywhere on the planet. Aspirations for oneself and for our progeny and friends seem universal, and are heavily driven toward peaceful, supportive, and loving connections between all of us. There is no such thing, under superficialities, as “the Russian character” or the “the Asian nature”. Around the kitchen table, we are all pretty much the same.

The subject of attitude, molded by life, is where we find differences across cultures, and these differences have substantial bearing on the success or failure of entire cultures, judged by those qualities that lead to human fulfillment.

Your writing classes and, as we all experience, your life-long practice in journals and so forth, has made you a pretty good writer. You cleared the bar in my book. I enjoyed your style and frankness. Your story of your work with Target Seattle and the Tashkent sojourns is really quite inspirational and, as I perceive it, took a good deal of courage and “mission fortitude”. You would have made a good US senator or a governor.

With utmost respect and sincere good wishes,

Paul Shelton

Published by Betsy Bell

Betsy Bell, born before WWII in New York City, spent her formative years in the Jim Crow town of Muskogee, Oklahoma. As a Girl Scout, she began her social justice activism working with a bi-racial team to integrate public schools after the 1954 Supreme Court decision mandating the end of school segregation. After completing her BA and MA at Bryn Mawr College, she began an academic career in Lawrence, Kansas where her husband taught. In Lawrence, she advocated for reproductive rights with Planned Parenthood. She lives in Seattle where she has held several career positions. Twice widowed, Betsy has published two short memoirs and several poems. For the past fourteen years, Betsy has worked with the Seattle area faith communities toward economic justice through the Jubilee USA Network. Betsy believes in the power of ordinary citizens to create a positive, inclusive and just society.