Dear Dr. King,
I imagine that on a day like today, you are closer than usual, watching with all the other ancestors. Sometimes I’m sure you’re cheering us on, gratified that we’re actually using the positive and negative lessons you left behind. Sometimes I’m sure we make you tired and angry, even while you hold us in the gentle compassion that spirit has for the meatbound. I wanted to say a few things to you today in the most honest way I can.
First off, I am just confused. I don’t understand how we continue to take loving children and young adults and turn them into defensive assholes that will kill or maim in the name of differences that are mostly made up. Not all of them end up that way of course, you being a great case in point, but we don’t set out to do it. No teacher I know says, “I hope I will help create people today that will root for division and strife in their adult lives….yay strife!!” There are hidden biases and prejudices, yes, but most people I know want a kinder world. So how are we still where we are? I’m not ready to believe that people are evil at heart, so I don’t get it! And I don’t know how the rules work where you are now, but if there’s a way to let us in on the answer, it would be much appreciated. We’d probably even be cool with half an answer at this point–yes, even half an answer might save a life.
Secondly, I want to do more to fight injustice, but I also don’t want to promise things I might not be able to deliver. I’m pretty selfish. Sometimes that bums me out, sometimes I don’t think about it, and I celebrate the times I step out of my self interest for the greater good. But the fact remains, I’m my first priority. I am knocked breathless by you and all the other fighters that gave your lives to move a cause one inch forward in a scale of miles. Maybe your faith made it possible? Maybe you were just crazy and it worked to the benefit of the world? It’s not me. I’ve spent much of my 13 years in teaching ignoring a variety of injustices in order to preserve my sanity and spend my energy loving those who were in front of me. No, I can’t promise renewed commitment to freedom fighting on your day today, but I can promise to keep moving forward on the things I can do that I think might help:
1.) I will keep becoming me, the most authentic, visible version of me that I know at the moment. I will not rest on my laurels and sleep at the river. I will find work that allows and encourages this. I will build my friends and family from people that call me on my shit when I won’t do it myself and celebrate the demolition of hiding places when I can do it myself. The people I know that are the most like this already, love the differences in others, find in them a magical intrigue instead of a sign that you’ve betrayed the dominant paradigm.
2.) I will keep creating art and asking questions. I have seen both acts pull people from opposite corners of the room to share stunned silence. We may have different names or theories about transcendence, but I think most people agree that something big exists. With continued effort I hope that my art will be ever better in helping us see ourselves and vent our demons, and that my questions will be ever more interesting and un-checklist like.
3.) I will keep reminding myself to be here. Not in last week or six hours from now, but right here, wherever right here is. My hope in this is that when an injustice happens, I will actually see it if I’m present in the moment. And if I see it, love will lead me to act.
This may not be enough, or it may be revolutionary, but either way it is my promise to you and all the ancestors today. Thank you for giving us a different lens with which to view passion, courage, and hell, even crazy.