Last night as I tucked my 13-year-old daughter in bed, we said “I love you” and I answered the two questions she ritualistically asks me each night: Is there anything I’m afraid of? What should I think about? To the first I emphatically, cheerfully, and optimistically say, “absolutely not!” To the second I often give her a Disney princess, a favorite TV show, book, or other fantastical story that I hope will provide her with a nugget of playful creativity to spin her own story and lull herself to sleep. Then I shut off the light, closed the door, and walked back downstairs to the CNN coverage of the Bastille Day terror attack in Nice. As is my nightly ritual, I opened my Facebook page to check in with my community and catch up with friends and family. As I did, I saw what my little one had written as her status update right before we said goodnight and I learned that she did indeed have something to be afraid of and something very important to think about:
It’s times like this when –
No. It’s times like now, times like all the time now, when I feel useless.
As a youth.
As a younger teenager.
As a minor.
I feel as though I can’t help, as though I just have to step back and watch my world fall apart. My world that was so bright and hopeful and Broadway! And film! And teaching! And writing! And hope! But I feel as though, if we keeping going the way we are, generations and generations will never get the world the way they wanted it, the way they see when they look at old pictures, of happy people living happy lives not even caring to lock the front door because
“who cares? we’re neighbors and even though we live right near the ‘bad part of town’ we don’t have to take precautions because it isn’t so bad.”
Though it probably wasn’t that way. It seems like it is, because now is so much worse.
I want to help. I want to stand for peace. I want to spread the message of self-love and neighbor-love and world-love but how am I supposed to do that if I can’t be taken seriously? If my message won’t reach far enough? If I’m too quiet?
Well, I can start by speaking a little louder, by sharing a little more of my mind, by not second-guessing my well-thought-out words. I can be sure of myself and the message I’m spreading.
I want there to not be a new tragedy every month, every week, every day. I want there not to be violence. I want there not be stupid guns and stupid bombs and stupid trucks who can’t think.
LISTEN UP HUMANS, WE CAN THINK!!!! WE CAN THINK BEFORE WE PULL THE TRIGGER, THINK BEFORE WE SET IT OFF, THINK BEFORE WE SET THE AUTOMOBILE INTO DRIVE!!!! WE CAN USE WORDS AND COMMUNICATE!!! WE HAVE BRAINS AND NEED TO USE THEM TO RECOGNIZE EACH OTHERS’ PAINS, AND LOVES, AND SORROWS, AND ALSO TO RECOGNIZE WHO THE REAL ENEMY IS: NOT EACH OTHER, NOT NATURE, NOT EVEN WEAPONS; IT IS HATE AND FEAR. IT ALWAYS HAS BEEN. SO WE NEED TO GET OFF OUR HIGH PRIVILEGED HORSES BUILT OF YEARS OF SYSTEMS OF RACISM, SEXISM, HETERONORMATIVITY, CISNORMITIVITY, MONEY, ETC AND PUT OUR THINKING CAPS ON (WHICH WE ALREADY HAVE ON, SURPRISE) AND WORK TOGETHER TO BEAT THE ENEMY THAT IS NOT SO EASILY BEATEN!!!!
we can do this. sorry if this was all over the place. my mind is.
Reading it I was at once sad, proud, hopeful, and I am reminded of this other teenage girl with wisdom beyond her years:
“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” Anne Frank
So, let us find our voices, speak a little louder, and not wait a single moment.