Lori Nairne, Presente!

I’m addicted to reading obituaries, especially of people I knew or know about.

You find out important things about them that you could not imagine, and how people felt about them.

But you also find out about the times in which they, we, lived, and can look again at how it was for us during that time.

It’s quite different when the obit is about people you loved.  They always seem to leave out important things, no matter how detailed they are, and this inaccuracy can be terribly upsetting because the person is no longer around to correct it and thus this is a permanent record of a life that is no longer accessible to us.

I was one of those who helped write the obituary of Lori Nairne who died in San Francisco in August.  Here it is in the San Francisco Bay View.

Though I contributed to writing it even I feel an important aspect of Lori, much loved, respected and mourned is absent, and I will try to put it into words which evaded me when she died.

Lori’s fierce and principled hatred of Big Pharma grew out of and was sustained by 40 years of experience as a nurse.  But her clarity was enabled by the sixties movement which shaped her and enabled the break with the fifties and its McCarthyite witch-hunts; the repressive conformity of the cold war shaped our lives in the US in particular.  In order to rise up against that pervasive conformity, people seemed to need a complete refusal of anything that interfered with spontaneity.  The flower children were not organizers (though there was plenty of organizing going on with the anti-racist and anti-war movements.)

Lori loved the WFH Campaign she was immersed in.  And she was able, among many other initiatives, to help spearhead a movement which in 2014 made Chelsea Manning, trans woman whistleblower against the military, the Grand Marshall of San Francisco Pride.  We won with Lori leading the way.

To be organising year in year out, day by day was tough for many of her generation, and later generations up to today.  There was a deeply felt tension between all the detailed work of building an ongoing organisation and expressing the fury we feel for all the repression we have always had to endure.  But Lori thought it was well worth it and delighted in the high points of winning.

I’m sorry Lori will not be here as the new movements grow; as their power increases our self-discipline becomes lighter to bear and even less necessary, and the euphoria more frequent.