When I first met Bonnie Tinker she was coming out of jail. I was legal observing for a large anti-war march where she and her son had been arrested. Her wife, Sara, waited patiently outside the jail with us for hours while Bonnie and their son were booked on various charges. Police had used unprovoked violence, pepper-spray, rubber bullets, and bean-bag rounds against unarmed activists in a misguided attempt at crowd control.
Late into the night we were getting updates from inside the jail and I would talk to Sara to give her any news we’d received. Finally, in the early morning hours Bonnie and her son were released. I wrote down their names, charges and court dates so we could provide them with attorneys, then made sure all of them had a safe ride home.
I didn’t think of Bonnie again until I volunteered to legal observe an action organized by the Seriously Pissed-Off Grannies. Sara and Bonnie, both in their 60’s, joined other older women (and later, men) to protest the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They were arrested for smearing red paint on the outside of military recruiters’ offices and for sitting-in, and obstructing access to the offices. Bonnie and Sara were also arrested for blocking the movement of a tank during a parade here in Portland. Bonnie was holding a sign with a dove which read “War is not the answer.”
Bonnie was a tireless activist in Portland. The Seriously Pissed-Off Grannies staged courageous sit-ins, demonstrations, and protests throughout the last part of the Bush II years and waged a weekly campaign against military recruiters. Bonnie was also founder and director of an organization called Love Makes a Family, which supports “nontraditional” families, specifically those with same-sex parents. At a time when others would presume to define who and what family is, Bonnie stood up and said simply, “love is what makes a family.”
Bonnie Tinker died in July 2009.
She was right-hooked by a truck while riding her bike at a conference in Virginia. She was an abuse survivor and activist who worked every day for peace and justice. Bonnie Tinker is a hero, not because she was larger than life (she wasn’t) or changed the world (for many, she did), but because she touched so many lives, and continues to inspire others to work for change. When I think of the few times I met her, I am still touched by her life, her work, and her passion. I hope my activism can inspire others and honor her memory.
We all have something to share and to contribute to the greater good. The world needs no more inaction. If Bonnie taught me anything, it’s that you must find your passion and live for it every single day with love and honesty.