To my children.
This, this that I have seen of late, this is not America. My partner is an immigrant, who now worries that she might be deported. Most of my friends (actually, if I think about it, all of my friends) are immigrants.
We, none of us, however, can allow the victory of one person to defeat our minds, our hearts, our souls, to destroy our faith, our trust, our dreams, our hopes. We must rise above such a defeat. We must be courageous. We must be awake and be conscious. We must transform the world by living in the world with a conscious daily practice, a refusal to give in to hate.
I am sad that I have to write such a letter to my children. Once again. I am sad that we have had to have these conversations again and again. That I have had to remind you to NOT walk around the city, Pittsburgh, the city I love, with earphones in your ears listening to the music that gives your joy. To remind you to always be alert to the ways of boys who think they can grab what they want.
But I do not want you to ever live a life thinking that you are victim, that you have no control over your own existence, you own living of your life. You are stronger than those people who remain victim of their victimhood. You are more educated. More passionate. And the reality is that you do have control, that you can create your life, and that you are not limited by a world bent on destroying your agency. I simply want you to be aware of what surrounds you. Awake to what the world thinks it can think of you as a woman.
If anyone builds a wall to stop you from dreaming, or if someone nails a glass ceiling down over your dreams, trying to suffocate your desires, I hope that your mother and I, and the education you are actively pursuing, have given you the fortitude to fight back for the right to have your own desires. Tear down any wall built by fearful boys. Break any glass ceilings put in your way by insecure boys.
And remember any one person only has the power over you that you grant them. Deny granting such boys, especially boys so orange that they frighten the sun, any power over you. Be wary of boys with small hands, hands so tiny that they are terrified of their own insecurity. Such boys tend to overcompensate by demanding you submit.
I hope your teachers have the courage to challenge you. To make you uncomfortable. I hope that your teachers respect you enough, and respect me as your father enough, to know that it is your parents’ role to nurture you, and that their job, as educators, is to open worlds to you that would otherwise not be opened to you. Worlds that may challenge your values. And remember growth is painful. And remember, as if I have to remind you of this, my daughters, my son, the world does not revolve around you. You are not entitled. You must work to break on through to those places where there is magic. Nothing about growth is easy or comfortable.
And know this: What we think about daily. The acts we commit daily. We create our lives with these thoughts, with these conversations, with these actions. So, we must resist those who are trying to seduce us into being lazy. We must resist the distractions created by capital and by all those who want to own our thoughts, the creeps who put their channels in our bedrooms.
There was nothing innocent about playing Pokemon Go this fall. The rabid intensity of finding whatever it was that those people staring at their screens were searching for. They, the ones who invented this distraction, knew these people were looking for nothing. They knew that the people staring at those screens would never be satisfied. They wanted you looking for nothing so that they could distract you from the real matter of living.
Imagine if we put our passion—the same kind of intensity people put into playing Pokemon Go or watching Game of Thrones or watching a football game—into actively engaging in the world? Imagine what we could do. Capitalism only functions through distraction. Capitalism can only destroy our souls if we fall for the distraction. Hollywood films, the internet, contemporary life, require that we never see, that we remain blind to what is being done to us.
Culture infantilizes us. The indignity of it kills our imagination. We are never invited to linger. Slow down. Linger. We must feel something. Connect to someone. We have children. Their lives are at stake with how we are living our lives. What are we creating for our children by the ways we live our lives? What world are we creating by what we devote each moment of each day to?
Screens create loneliness, they murder spontaneous imagination and destroy our ability to entertain ourselves, painfully erasing our patience and sensitivity to significant detail.
All this, the daily life of living and of making choices (or more accurately of failing to make choices and allowing them, those people with power, to chose for us), makes it possible for orange aliens to overthrow integrity and peace and equality.
You, my daughters, my son, are in college not for a degree, but for an education, and a responsibility comes with an education. An education is a gift. Any time we are given a gift, we have a responsibility to transform the gift—whether the gift is that of an education, or of love or of a hammer—into something beautiful, powerful, and useful. The person giving us the gift does not have power. The person receiving the gift has the power.
We need you to be citizens. An education is only useful if we do something with our education. If we merely go to college to get a job, then we will miss the opportunity to earn an education, and transform our understanding of the world, and transform our sense of self.
Education is more powerful than a job.
Politics is not something that happens every four years. Politics happens when you open the door to Old Soul Coffee House for someone, and you look that person in their eyes, and you share that one moment with each other, and you carry that moment with you when you walk through the rest of your day. And you feel seen. You exist. That is political.
Politics is when you reach out, seriously reach across chasms, and you listen. And when you listen, you make the person talking to you feel like they are the only person alive, that nothing is more important to you than this moment of listening to them, and you are not waiting to speak. You are listening. And that thing inside you that you feel beginning to move, just a flutter of movement, that is your soul waking up, because you are moving outside of the boundaries of your own skin into the skin and breath and voice of someone who is not you.
My brother came out to California to help me with work around my home. One day he wore a Pittsburgh Penguins t-shirt that said: All guts no glory. We must be this. We must embrace this. We live each day not for recognition, not for the glory of being recognized, of being given a prize, at trophy, by someone outside of us, but as a way of expressing our guts, our inner sense of being. We live, we act, because we want to be alive.
If you want to change profile picture to show some sort of passive solidarity, do so. But understand that is not enough. Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy, and others did not sit on their sofa in the safety of their homes clicking “like” and thinking their work was done. That is only the beginning.
If you want to wear a safety pin, do so. But actively be that person that makes difference matter, that opens to difference, but that means all forms of difference, even difference that may make you uncomfortable.
Every photograph, every sentence, every line of poetry should threaten the boundary between aesthetics and politics.
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