2017-08-18 / Letters

When we don’t know what to do

To the editor:

As a human being, I am fearful about North Korea, Venezuela, Guam, our election system, police shootings, riots in Virginia and the bully in the White House who spews rhetoric as though without consequence. I am fearful for Jews, lesbian and gay and trans people, Blacks, people without insurance, people with nowhere to go and people who don’t know what to do.

As a writer, I am fearful of being silent. Sometimes we are coaxed toward silence hoping it will lead to something good. However, over and over and over again, history instructs us on the hazards of silence.

The poet Joseph Brodsky once said something close to this, “Americans, you are so naïve. You think evil is going to come into your houses wearing big black boots. It doesn’t come like that. Look at the language. It begins in the language.”

In our language now, both public and private, we can hear trouble coming, we hear civility waning and prejudice rising, we hear less us and more me. We don’t know what to do. Our busy-ness is eclipsing our kindness. Our hierarchies are filled with non-leaders. Courage is no longer the virtue, gain appears to be the goal and rudeness is unbridled.

We have formed ideas about things. We believe right is right and wrong is wrong. We think we understand both right and wrong, as well as one from the other. Until one day when a great wind blows into our little room, and we become disturbed, and everything takes a tumble and again we don’t know what to do. Sometimes we create the wind that blows down another and sometimes we are the other.

At first, we think we must right everything, sturdy things back into place. End the disturbance, return to what we know. But sometimes, if we’re very lucky, we grasp the aha. We understand that art and learning exist within the tumbling and love is in the tumbled.

Maybe today we can begin with one intentional offering and with it lift someone up. Today, maybe there is a kindness we can put into the world. Maybe our voice will speak up today with words like: Love, try again, I see you, or merely a simple yes. Maybe there’s a door we can hold open, a phone call we won’t postpone, a letter we will mail, a yielding that we can extend to someone else’s wish, a sentence we will dare to speak, a peaceful protest we will launch.

It’s time. It’s time now. It’s time to make our offering.

Marie Louise St. Onge

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