June 5, 2004
Dear Steve Duin,
I have been pondering your request for thoughts on what each or any of us are afraid of, and read with great interest some of your siftings through of people's thoughts. I am glad you will return to this theme over the coming months. We need to confront ourselves and the world we have all helped create.
But I do not want to give in to fear. I refuse to fear yellow, orange or red alerts. I feel no more or less safe at the airport and refuse to buy that fear. I joke with the airport security about my bra setting the alarm off and suggest I take it off—that is an affront to most of the "guards". At times I fear the cabal that is running this country right now, but that is a worthless fear because it is easy to think then, that there is nothing any of us can do. I refuse to buy that.
I fear myself, if anything or anyone—when I lose hope or faith when all of the events of our lives and of the world come together periodically as an overwhelming totality. I am grateful that this does not happen too often. When it does it is a thick fog I can't see past momentarily. I'm certain others feel this way.
But I worry. I worry that we in our circles, in our town and across the country and globe will become so insulated that we will never be able to listen to each other, hear each other. When democrats and republicans and all the other "parties" refuse to listen to each other, should we be in the same room with one another, will we continue to not seek each other out for dialogue? If this is so, what does that mean for all the students I teach? Go live in your own world? You get a lot further with video games and drugs? I worry about the hopelessness and incivility the adults and "leaders" of our cities, states and country are instilling in our youth, many of whom see little in their future -- "we are supposed to be the future"-- this rings hollow for so many.
Rather than focusing on fear I want us all to focus on questions that need to be asked and on actions that reclaim our democracy with and for one another. Why do our calls for fair wages, affordable housing and health care go unheeded by those we elect? Why are we as a people so quiet over these matters. I am envious at times when I hear that in some other country 10,000, 50,000, 100,00 people are protesting a state of affairs that affects them. Are we really that comfortable?
Why has journalism in this country sold out to the elite? By the "elite" I mean the dynasties and the corporate heads and the few who profit immensely from tax breaks, special favors and more. We have such a short-term vision for the future in this country—whatever will make me rich for maybe the next 5 years. I often ask decision makers if they ever think of the impacts their actions or lack thereof will have on their children and grandchildren. It seems they don't—they just trust the "market economy" or whatever is the buzzword of the day.
Now I'm on a rant but really, I want to help affect change. I volunteer a lot of my time and money for my cause—cleanup of Hanford—and I teach youth who would be at risk in public schools. But people like me, and there are many of us, are called names by the likes of David Reinhardt and Ann Coulter—wild-eyed liberals, haters, etc. This sounds like middle school playground dynamics. Great examples to pit us teachers against when we try to instill civility.
I think that the key to disenfranchisement, to so-called "voter apathy" is the economic disparity between the classes in this country. We are a classist society. All of us are expected to have a "place" and until any of us has the means to move to the next "place" we are looked down upon and then do the "looking down upon". I think the people who are not paying attention to politics are those who are struggling to pay exorbitant rents relative to the median salary in the place where we live. Our utility bills continue to rise (meanwhile wages remain stagnant for the working "Joe-blow"), everything, including demands of work, increases except our salaries or wages. Who has the time to follow the vagaries of politics when trying to house, feed and clothe a family? And many people still believe that one person cannot make a difference. How can we all begin convincing people that the opposite is true? And how do we convince/help each other to respect one another and treat all with kindness? These seem to me to be the core issues. Herein lie the solutions that we need to be talking about to move our society, one by one, beyond fear and hopelessness.
Thank you for the opportunity to deeply consider and voice my thoughts and worries about where we are as a nation and as a world. I hope you can continue to address these matters in your column.