Dear Country, we are broken.
Do you feel that? Has the pain managed to travel all the pathways, however small, or are there still pockets that it hasn’t reached yet? For some of us, the nerve impulse hit in early in 2016, for some in November, for some it is cutting through now. For others it may take time yet for the depth of the damage to sink in.
The truth is that we have been this way for a long time, perhaps forever, but we’ve ignored the signals. We never fully saw through the things that we should have. We never worked to truly teach each other that without rights for all, all our rights can be lost. We allowed ourselves to be pulled apart, to become birds without flocks, fish without schools, and then accepted hate as something to hold us together, when the truth is that hate simply feeds on us and destroys everything.
Let me tell you a little something about being broken. It’s possible to pretend. It’s possible to live in a house whose supports have been cracked, whose foundation looks like Swiss cheese, and to hide it all, to leave every morning pretending your house is sound and you are fine. Nothing to see here, folks, just another normal, sturdy house. You can get used to it. You can act like nothing is wrong.
But every day you will wonder whether your house will still be standing when you reach home. And every night you will lie awake, listening to each creak, the fear eating away inside you until it devours your memories, your visions of the future, your dreams for everyone you care about. You can try to outpretend that fear, but your entire life will become the pretending. There will be nothing else left of you.
Dear Country, we’ve been pretending for far too long. We need to open up the doors, and the walls, and shine lights in all the corners, and then we need to work. Together. Because this is our house, and it was built for us so long ago, and every old house needs work. Some of this old house was built with love, but much was built with hate, and we need to pull out all of those pieces or the whole thing will collapse. No amount of pretending will stop that. It’s already happening.
I actually believe in you, Dear Country. My cynical, untrusting, anxious self actually has within it a perpetual engine of belief in you. In We The People. I wrote Devil And The Bluebird because I believe in you. In fact, the very act of writing at all, for me, comes from a place of belief in you.
I need to be more clear, though. I don’t believe in your acts of genocide. I don’t believe in racism, or sexism, or xenophobia, or environmental destruction, or the economic warfare that consolidates power in the hands of fewer and fewer people. I do not believe in white supremacy. I don’t believe in leaving children, the elderly, anyone, to suffer and die because they can’t afford healthcare.
I reject those materials as part of this house, and I will continue to do so for the rest of my life. They need to come out.
So when I say I believe in you, Dear Country, what do I mean? Just this: I believe in the continuing potential within all of us. I believe in the capacity of each of us to love, to make choices out of compassion, to begin to see ourselves as tenants of this house together, this house of and by and for the people. I believe that we can all learn the carpentry needed to fix the structural issues, even the really challenging stuff. I believe that some of us may be good with hammers, and some with blueprints, and some with painting murals on the walls, and that that is the way we’ll get the work done.
I’ve started learning embroidery with a friend. This is my first project.
It is a bird, of course. Not because I want to fly away, which I do—don’t ever imagine that the current state of our existence, Dear Country, hasn’t filled me with dread—but because “Hope” is the thing with feathers –. I’m working on it for both of us, Dear Country. And I’ll be with you in Washington D.C. this Saturday, where I’ll march because of my belief in you. And after that I’ll be pointing out the holes, and marking the cracked beams, and learning to use all the tools in my toolbox, and making coffee and cake for the people who can teach me, and I’ll be doing it because I believe in you. I believe We The People can turn this house into a home worthy of all our hopes.
Dear Country, I believe in the potential of you.