I remember the night I got this T shirt very vividly. It was the last Eco-Justice coffee house put on by the Washington, DC Greens before election day 1995. Rabin had just been shot, so there were Middle Eastern looking people weeping on the subway. Bruce Wiener was running as a Green in the Virginia house of Delegates race, and I had spent a lot of my free time that fall working on his campaign. The weather was very cold to a California guy like me. There was ice everywhere to slip on.
That night I ate supper with an old Native American couple from the upper Midwest, and they seemed like keen political participants. Every negotiating strategy that I brought up made the guy say "we tried that," with the implication that it wouldn't hold much water long term. I got this feeling that I needed to give the guy the shirt off my back. Tim Holt had given that to me when I had gone to the Suttertown News going out of business sale in Sacramento. It was the only one I had that said TELL THE TRUTH AND SHAME THE DEVIL. How else could I express my hopes that his words be strong?
I went to the table in the hall, where they had a stack of Humani-tees with the slogan THEY WERE HERE FIRST, as well as others I didn't like as much. I got one for $5, and changed right there. When I gave my Sacramento shirt to the Grandfatherly type he said "Good." The Grandmotherly type said somewhere in the conversation "Tobacco is sacred." So many bizarre things had happened so close together that I was somewhat wierded out at the time, but it all made sense in a bizarre kind of way.
Later that evening, wandering around what was turning out to be a very nice party, I came upon a batch of Political Greens conferring. One of them told me that when they discuss serious long term issues, they try to have a person at the table that represents each species on my shirt. Another one told me that there were a lot of votes in the room.
It was much later that I got Bruce Burgess to put the WORDS MATTER on the back. What that story means to me is "they" matter as much as "we" do. I try to wear that shirt once for every group I consider myself a member of. I am always grateful when I get a chance to tell someone the story behind it.
According to the guy that sold me this Kiwi fruit at the farmers market, many people say this type looks like a fetus. I think of it as a symbol of the needs of our descendants, seven generations down the road.