Loveys, I’ve been struggling with writing a post to tell you how to stop being scared and what to do to quell the panic. I have a list of things but they aren’t hanging together yet in any way that feels helpful to anyone.
But then I was driving my 9th grader to school this morning and an Elton John song came on the radio and I launched into one of my cultural literacy lectures, about Elton John and Bernie Taupin and how they were such a strange combo because all of Elton John’s songs sound so natural, like they were written by one person and the lyrics and music just came to him together, but instead the lyrics were written by Taupin and the music by John and how do those songs hang together so well when the parts were created by different people? And how in the world does Taupin write lyrics from John’s point of view so brilliantly? I told my son about “Someone Saved My Life Tonight,” about Elton John being engaged to a woman and being suicidal about that, and a friend talking him out of doing the socially acceptable thing by marrying her so that he could be true to himself instead. And how by writing those beautiful, nuanced lyrics for Elton John to sing, Bernie Taupin has saved more lives than he could ever know.
And then I started crying, in the car on the highway, because it hit me that my child has been trying to communicate since the beginning (when he was 3 days old my mom said, “He’s trying to talk to us” and she was right), and words and language are important to him, and he’s developing into a nuanced and powerful writer. So then I got fierce in that way that embarrasses the crap out of him even when we’re alone, and told him that he HAD to keep writing. That the words he put together were important, whether they were jokes or song lyrics or short stories or impassioned treatises about the moral danger of homework. And that his critical brain needed to keep working. And KEEP WRITING. Because he had no idea whose life he was going to save, literally or metaphorically, with something he wrote.
Then he changed the subject and I stopped crying and we got to school and he told me he loved me and got out of the car.
This is what I have for you today: This is going to be a long, slow ugly fight. Bad things are going to happen. Many bad things that we literally can’t do anything about, and a lot of bad things that we’ll almost prevent but not quite. And we are going to keep losing things we never thought could be lost. But. As long as we keep teaching the children in our lives to think critically and create things that connect with other people, we (humans) win.
If there are kids in your life in any capacity, spend time with them. Take them seriously and nurture their skills. Apprentice them into critical thinking. Invite them to look behind the curtain. Talk about race and sex and gender and how those things affect how people are treated and how they intersect with our systems and institutions. Encourage them to do a critical examination of media they consume and look for the mechanisms and motivations of the messages that are sent (and the ones they receive). Raise your children to be critical thinkers who can’t be fooled and enticed by demagogues and public narcissists. That’s the long game here–creating more humans who use their brains for justice and joy.
Now that this is off my chest, I think I can write these lists of how to regain your balance. Stay tuned.