ACTIVIST WEAVES ISSUES TO CREATE A COALITIONBy JOE FROLIK; NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT
The Plain Dealer, January 24, 1998
Carol Crossed is not your typical single-issue activist.
She's against the death penalty and abortion. She considers herself part of the peace movement and the environmental movement and the civil rights movement and the women's movement. And she has an arrest record - 18 trips to jail for various acts of civil disobedience in the service of almost as many causes - to prove her commitment.
But Crossed, who spoke at yesterday's City Club Forum, insists that all her various interests do tie together. They are part of what she calls "a consistent ethic of life. "
"Connecting issues," the slightly built grandmother of three said during an interview before her speech, "is my forte."
From her home in Rochester, N.Y., Crossed heads the Seamless Garment Network, a coalition of 146 organizations that run the gamut from gay and lesbian groups to orders of Roman Catholic nuns. Different members may emphasize different issues, but all buy into a unified platform and pledge to cooperate with one another when possible, Crossed said.
"You'll find people left and right who aren't 'seamless garment,' criticizing the holistic approach to life,' Crossed said. "But what we're saying is that unless you see all these issues as woven together, there won't be any protection for life. We're all in this together."
Crossed uses a term to describe herself that many shy away from these days: liberal.
"I see a liberal as someone who embraces life, whether it's women, the poor, gays and lesbians, the people on death row or the unborn," she said. "It is antithetical for liberals to exclude a class of persons from our embrace."
Her embrace of "the unborn" puts Crossed at odds with most on the modern-day left. Since the 1970s, the few liberal politicians who do not support legal abortion - Reps. Tony Hall of Dayton and Marcy Kaptur of Toledo, to name two - are often seen as oddities with limited political futures.
Crossed has no political ambitions. She writes and speaks and helps like-minded people organize and focuses on whatever issue "time and geography" may put before her.
"During the civil rights movement, that was the most important issue," she said. "During the Vietnam War, peace was the most important issue. Three years ago, when my state, New York, brought back the death penalty, that was the most important issue."
Yesterday's City Club speech, coming the day after the 25th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, was one of the few she has given that emphasized abortion. But she said that issue might consume more and more of her time.
"I think this may be the issue of the 21st century: How are we going to protect the unborn? How are we going to protect women and children?" Crossed said. "There's not anybody who's going to escape this issue."
Copyright 1998 Plain Dealer Publishing Co.