It’s 11:30 pm and I have been sitting in the dark, staring at my open laptop – and the above quote – trying to figure out what it is I need to say.
I have been restless for a week. Luckily, work has been extremely busy, so it has occupied much of my time – but in the few quiet moments I’ve had, I have sat in silence, my thoughts turning over and over in my head until I’m exhausted.
I have struggled with writing what I’m thinking, because I am aware that I have somewhat of an audience – be it little or large, it makes no difference when you know people are watching. And so I have grappled between being true to myself – or writing about what people want to read.
And then I remember…
I don’t owe anyone a damned thing.
I am not selling anything. I am not representing anything or anyone – other than myself. This blog carries on from nearly ten blogs before it – when I had an audience of none – when I wrote for no other reason than wanting to write.
Recently, my sister-in-law said to me, after I followed up a post with some clarifications, “That is ridiculous. You don’t need to clarify anything. These are your own thoughts.” And my response was, “Well, I would hate for anyone to think that I meant…”
You know what?
You’ve got it!
During my mom’s last visit, she brought out a stack of papers she found in an old desk of mine from high school. Much of it was random musings of a teenager – overly-dramatic poems (which Brian and I had a good laugh reading through together), some school papers that included articles I wrote (they spelled my first name wrong in the byline), a start to a young adult book (that I only let my sister read, at the time, and she readily critiqued)… and mixed in with all of it was a typed up letter I had written to the Voice of the People section of the local newspaper.
To whom it may concern:
I have a few things to say and I hope you find it important enough to put in your VOICE OF THE PEOPLE section in your newspaper.
I may be writing this a little late but I still think that what I want to say should be listened to. It’s about the burning of the flag. Lots of people say that burning the flag is a horrid act. That the flag stands for freedom. A freedom in which men fought and died for. A freedom in which we worked so hard to get. The flag states our freedom to think and live as we please. A freedom to our own color, religion and our way of living. I agree the flag stands for all of this. I agree that the flag shouldn’t be used to get back at the government for something they are doing wrong. I don’t think the flag should be burned. But isn’t every person who has a prejudice against anyone different than themselves also going against everything the flag stands for also? Every time a person curses another’s color, religion or sex, aren’t they also burning the flag? Not physically so others can see them, but verbally when they hate those different from themselves. So what is so different if people burn the flag through a match rather than through their mouths? I think that doing one is just as bad as the other. I think both actions are wrong. So everyone out there who can say that they think that burning the flag is an outrage and wrong, but they themselves have gone against what the flag stands for, well, just think of the ways they’ve burnt it in one way or another.
Another thing, I am not some kind of ‘80s hippy who wants to go around and save the world. I’m just a fifteen year old kid who wants to be heard and not just seen.
After reading this letter, I laughed at my then-15-year old self and set it aside. I had forgotten that I used to write letters every so often to the newspaper. I never mailed one of them – but, as is the same case today, just getting my thoughts on paper was therapeutic.
However, a few days ago as I was sorting through my desk and I ran across the letter, I sat down and read it to myself again. And this time I felt a weight land heavily on my chest.
Make no mistake, I don’t think that letter was profound in any way. I certainly don’t think it had any kind of genius message. But, I do want to know: why didn’t I mail it?
I want to grab that 15 year old girl by the shoulders and scream, “MAIL IT!” I want someone else to have grabbed that 15-year old and told her:
“Don’t be scared. Let them hear your voice. Act. If you believe in something, ACT.”
Do not let the fear of how you may look sideline the truth of how you feel.
So, here I am. Decades later. With little blue eyes watching now. And I am never going to make that mistake again.
I will say it and I will live it. And I am not going to keep quiet in order to appear gracious and neutral.
In our home, we don’t “tolerate” love – we embrace it.
In our home, religious freedom is just that – freedom. For all religions.
In our home, your religious beliefs (or lack of them) do not define your humanity. Your actions define your humanity.
In our home, black lives matter.
In our home, we understand it is our responsibility to take care of this planet.
In our home, we understand and appreciate this country is made of a melting pot of immigrants, which include my great-grandparents and likely yours.
In our home, we don’t turn our backs on our suffering neighbors.
In our home, free thought is encouraged.
In our home, science is not just a theory.
In our home, women’s rights are human rights.
In our home, we don’t build walls.
In our home, we break down walls.
And another thing…
Peaceful protests aren’t the byproduct of giving kids participation trophies. They are the byproduct of the First Amendment.
Expressing sadness over a world turned upside down by election results doesn’t equate to “babies” not getting their way. It equates to genuine sadness.
You don’t get to call yourself pro-life unless you are fighting for ALL lives. (Perhaps click here for a better understanding.)
I don’t define all democrats by clusters of rioting in otherwise peaceful demonstrations, just as I don’t define all republicans by organized Ku Klux Klan “victory” parades celebrating the president-elect.
Listen, this is no longer about an election. I am not denying the president-elect won. He won. That part is over now. And, as I told Hannah tonight over dinner, Donald Trump is going to be our president and we have to respect that. But I also told her that doesn’t mean we stop standing up for what we believe in or doing what is right.
I may be going to Washington in January to march – and if not there, the sister-march in St. Louis. (I would hope that everyone has read and realizes the Women’s March is not a protest against Trump – it is a march for women’s rights.)
If I do go, Ivy will not understand why right now.
But when she comes across a photo of it in a desk twenty years from now, she will know. And I will have done more than mailing it in.