Tag Archives: America

Do We Believe in Change?

childrenOne of the first responders to my recent blog post, “The Insanity of America,” was a teacher. She spoke to my question, “Do we believe in change? Truly?”

I had answered myself by saying, “I’m no longer sure I do, and I’m not sure the world around me does either. I have a sense that we have lost hold on that most American of all dreams . . . a belief in the future.”

In response, she said that she does believe in change, “Change that happens quietly, slowly, child by child and person by person. It is a change we seldom see but is there in the souls of your readers.”

And yes, of course. That change I, too, believe in. If I didn’t, I couldn’t write another story, small or large. If I didn’t, I couldn’t climb out of bed in the morning. If I didn’t, I couldn’t breathe!

I have always believed in the change we create in one another, one on one on one. One child changed by a book. One friend changed by a listening ear. That kind of change feeds my life, and I still believe in it wholly. What I struggle to believe in, though, is that we can change the system we live in.

In 1972 my children were just beginning to be aware of the larger world when Watergate filled the news. That adults—our leaders—could behave like schoolyard bullies shocked them deeply. But as the situation played out, as some punishment was meted out and Nixon resigned his presidency, I said to my children, “See? The system works.”

And I was proud that it did.

Today, though, I can no longer offer that testament of faith.

Maybe the system never worked as well as we thought it did. And maybe the game of politics was always played solely with and for money. But in my lifetime, I have watched the rich grow ever more powerful, and I have watched that power make decisions that I abhor.

When I look at the nuclear-weapons game still being played between the U.S. and Russia, when I look at the way my country stomps around the world wearing military boots, when I look at our crumbling infrastructure, at the homeless, at the hungry children, at people of color being murdered by those assigned to protect, at this suffering planet . . . I no longer believe either in my power to make a difference or in the power of the system to heal itself.

I would despair except that despair changes nothing . . . except me. And despair would change me profoundly.

I love my days. I love this green summer world that surrounds me. I rejoice in the sacredness of my life, of all life. I do not choose to diminish one moment of it with useless weeping.

It has taken me many years to learn to balance between gratitude for the sweetness of my own life and honest recognition of a crumbling world. I choose to live in the gratitude.

Still I will say it again . . . we must speak, whether our speaking changes anything or not.

If we don’t, who will?

The Insanity of America

stop killing our children“Only in the insanity of corporate America can nonviolent animal rights activists be charged as terrorists while a white supremacist who gunned down African-Americans in a South Carolina church is charged on criminal counts. Only in the insanity of America can Wall Street financers implode the global economy through massive acts of fraud, causing widespread suffering, and be rewarded with trillions of dollars in government bailouts. Only in the insanity of America can government leaders wage wars that are defined as criminal acts of aggression under international law and then remain, unchallenged, in positions of power and influence. All this makes no sense in an open society. But it makes perfect sense in our species of corporate totalitarianism, in which life, especially the life of the vulnerable, is expendable and corporate profit alone is protected and sanctified as the highest good.”
−from “A Haven From the Animal Holocaust” by Chris Hedges,
posted August 2, 2015 on Truthdig

In my last blog, I wrote about war. I’m against it, in case you didn’t guess. But even as I wrote the blog, I found myself thinking, What’s the point of saying this?

Most people are against war. At least war as a concept. And we’re quick to say we are because, frankly, the saying is easy. But while you and I are condemning war our government girdles the earth with its weapons, its troops, its secret agents, it covert operations. War and near-war and the bloody aftermath of war, all of it is as constant as the weather. All of it merely something to complain about.

Chris Hedges, whose words I borrowed to open this piece, was once a war correspondent for the New York Times. When the U.S. invaded Iraq, he refused to maintain the official “neutrality” demanded of a journalist and was forced to leave his coveted position. (Somehow it’s considered neutrality when reporters repeat the official government line on such matters.) Now he speaks his truth through an Internet site called Truthdig. Unfettered, he talks of war and much more.

Chris Hedges is one of my heroes. When he speaks, people listen. Lots of people listen.

I am a children’s writer who has been around for a long time. My voice reaches a few folks.

But here’s the question I keep asking: What changes when either one of us speaks, Chris with his big voice, me with my small one? Not one cache of carefully aimed nuclear weapons will be shut down because of our words. Not one child sent into the world with a gun to “defend our freedom” will come home early. No person of color incarcerated for a petty crime will be released. No corrupt, self-serving bankers prosecuted. Our polluted planet will find no reprieve because we have spoken.

Chris has named it correctly. Corporate America and the government owned by corporate America is insane. Consumed by greed. Blinded by power. Lost in a vision of profit that obliterates all in its path.

And even as I speak, repeating Chris’s words and adding my own, I have a vision of our voices disappearing into cyberspace, floating out there somewhere between here and the moon, gone . . . gone.

Is the pen truly more powerful than the sword? Or do we simply soothe ourselves, Chris and me and all the other “truth tellers,” with words? Suckle those words like a baby with a pacifier. Do we believe in change? Truly?

I’m no longer sure I do, and I’m not sure the world around me does either. I have a sense that we have lost hold on that most American of all dreams . . . a belief in the future.

Yet I find myself saying it, needing to say it, and carrying in my heart other voices that say it, too: This blue-green earth is so precious. All who share it with us so precious, too. We must name the beast intent on destroying us. Name it and name it and name it!

And once we have named it, we must turn and bless one another.