To Whom It May Concern:
As I translate thought to word and word to paper, my hands slightly tremble. I am terrified.
I am not afraid of what I need to say, I am afraid of how it will be received. I am afraid of how other narratives will eventually obscure this one, either through volume or simply by subtle changes over time. But these things must be said, and I will forge on. To be silent is to contribute to the slow cancer encroaching upon us, a quiet acceptance of that comfortable death that comes only from giving up. I cannot be silent any longer; knowing what I now know I realize that I must face my fears and the uncomfortable truths that lie in front of me, as to go back is not an option and to stay put only sinks me deeper in the quicksand with the rest of us.
Growth is not comfortable. Change is not comfortable. But they are necessary to foster progress, not the kind of the co-opted definition some would have you believe and label themselves as, but real, true progress. A famous man once had a dream. We all know who he is. We were taught that dream came to fruition. That was a lie. We were taught that he was a man of upstanding principle, that he wished for peace and calm discussion more than he would for breaking the law. That was a lie. We were taught he was a binary opposite of a similar man who taught similar things but spoke in a slightly different way. He was of a different religion. A foreign religion. He doesn't have a holiday, but we all know who that man is as well. That he represented evil in a sense to oppose the first man's good like two sides of a coin was a lie. These men taught almost the exact same things, and yet they were divided and conquered, their narratives silenced, all from a simple re-framing of the story. All from edits to history books. All from the lie that the dream had come true. It is this fate that I fear for my own story, silenced by the very slow moving but very much alive forces that are still silencing these men today.
I was told recently that I'm a narcissist. This is true. I can't really help it, I tend to see and relate things from my perspective. It is as natural to me as a fish swimming in water. As such, I will attempt to relate myself as much as I can. I am, however, not vain, I am perfectly capable of seeing myself for who I am and criticizing myself when necessary. This isn't comfortable for me, as some of these things shouldn't be comfortable for you. Many of you are probably wondering what I might be talking about by now, especially about the two men. We will get to that later. But right now realize that this criticism, which you will surely feel, is the point. That criticism in and of itself is not a bad thing, a synonym for negative insults and degradation, conversely it is merely a contrasting perspective that allows us to better see ourselves. It's like a mirror that tells truths instead of simply being another pair of rose-colored glasses. Discomfort, too, is also the point, because if you are comfortable then there is no motive to change, to drive forward and improve. And if any of you think that you can't improve or otherwise are perfect, please let the rest of us know. We're dying to see what it looks like.
For a long time, I was blind. This is not to say I could not physically see, I mean this in a metaphorical sense, in that there were perspectives and worldviews I was naive to. There is still much I am ignorant of. I write this not as a master, but as a novice, opening his eyes for the first time. And for the love of god, I do not consider myself 'woke', rather I despise the arrogance of the term. We are all still learning, even the most accomplished masters. The more you know, the more you understand and realize how little you actually know. For me, this catalyzing event occurred in the field of rhetoric. Don't worry, I'm not going to get too deep into technical terms. I am still a novice, and I do not wish to speak to those who already know what I write here.
In rhetoric, which basically refers to how language is constructed and used, there is the idea that different narratives, different stories exist not only for each person, but each perspective and object they encounter and event they experience. Individually and collectively, there are an infinite amount of these perspectives. But there is also the concept of using language as a weapon. To persuade and manipulate others, deceiving them into believing or doing something they might not otherwise do. This involves supplanting one narrative for another, altering how they see things until it aligns with these manipulative goals. I will not lie, this is similar to what I am doing here, but I hope that in being open and honest about it I can garner the trust that I am not attempting to deceive.
These narratives, these lies have been told to our children, our children's children, and so forth, until they become gospel truth. One man was good. The other bad. Lies. Lies told so often and so softly that they whisper in our ear whenever we are confronted with an alternative point of view. We are creatures of habit, we do not want to leave the comfort we have built around us. We do not want to consider that truths we hold dear might indeed be falsehoods. We are generally unwilling to test our beliefs and go out on a limb away from the safety of the herd even when doing so could easily reveal greater truth. This is known as moderacy. If you are ever uncomfortable when faced with political rhetoric, that is your inner moderate talking.
Don't listen to them. They are softly killing you and laughing while they do so.
Let me be perfectly clear as well: moderacy in the sense I mean it does not refer to having a middle of the road opinion, seeing both merits and downsides and thinking a more complex but accurate solution lies at the middle of a binary debate, but rather choosing ignorance because the issue of the day is too hard to comprehend, that it is easier to spout the lines the media has trained you to repeat rather than taking a step back and attempting to put effort into analyzing the truths of the situation for yourself. Moderacy is saying it's not yet time for certain social discussions to be had, yet not ever giving a clear timeline of when that discussion should occur. It favors an unjust peace free of tension over a just peace achieved through the smelting fires of social turmoil.
I was a moderate. In many ways, I still am. I hear something and my emotions knee jerk towards those tendencies, shying away from discomfort. I am lucky. All my life I could do that, ignore injustice simply because it didn't apply to me. A friend once told me a joke: "What weighs more, a pound of feathers or a pound of steel?" I answered they both weigh the same. "False," he stated, "the pound of feathers weighs more, because you have to carry with you what you did to all those birds." But what if I could take those feathers anyways, and conveniently ignore what someone else did to all those birds? The concept is the same.
Today I am not a moderate. I do not consider myself an extremist, like the two men I do not favor violence. I feel that sometimes pushing that discomfort is necessary to force the hand of change. As distasteful as it is, it's merely a bitter pill that must be swallowed to get to our social cake. Today I will learn to use my language as a weapon, not to harm others but to guard myself and those I care about from the vocal barbs others would hurt us with. And I do care for my enemy. I have hope that hatred can be defused. It is defused when we learn to speak each others' language, when we can relate and open discussions on why we feel the way we do, and we gain mutual understanding of how our perspectives and personal stories are shaped and maintained. This is not easy. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X knew this better than anyone. But if we succumb to hatred and stop reaching across the aisle no matter how many times our hands are burned, then we will have accepted the same death moderacy affords, but on a much faster scale.
I implore you. Seek knowledge. Seek understanding of those you dislike. Seek to see through the eyes of someone vastly different than you. Yes, it's terrifying. But once your eyes start to open, it is that much harder for the hate and lies to stop you.