We are the People
“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.”TH White
For the last blog post of 2017, I decided to reprint a letter I wrote to our children —
New Year’s Eve 2017
My dear Fiona and Duncan:
You may wonder why we are giving you these iconic “We The People” posters on New Year’s Eve. Another eccentricity of your mother’s? Perhaps. But also a very deliberate prompt that you are citizens of a country your father and I love and feel bound to honor and protect. This has been a year that shook us and our nation to its core. A year of outrage, divisiveness, vulgarity, greed and bullying. We felt our Presidency and Congress were desecrated and demeaned. We have struggled to rise above some very sinister trends in our nation, like the sickening contempt for the natural world embedded in our national leadership and the revelation that so many of our countrymen and women can embrace ignorance and promote bigotry. At times all the dark news has devastated our spirits. But we see that there is light in the heart of darkness. There always is. And that light comes from within us as a nation and from within us as a family. We have been given so much advantage and love in this world, and that gives us even more agency to give back and to keep giving—to keep pushing for a better place. We have taken a lot for granted and we just need to work harder.
The images in the posters are powerful reminders that our nation is a collection of diverse citizens, one that mirrors our planet. And an essential part of citizenship is learning about your country and your earth. Never stop learning about all histories— natural and human—we never know enough. Don’t press that easy button and think life is good and assume that gives you permission to be passive. We are all bound to one another. Complicity is a treacherous slope and you must always challenge what is unjust in both small and broad strokes. Be aware. Be compassionate. We need to accumulate principles and ideas, not stuff. You come from a long line of amazing immigrants on both sides of your family — Dutch, Eastern European Jewish, Armenian, West Asian, Scotch-Irish and English to name a few— ancestors who were ambitious and valued education above all else and believed in serving this, their adopted, country. And we want you to own your voices and your gifts and your commitment to this nation and to this planet.
So keep learning why the world wags. Here’s to a better 2018. We love you.
Mom and Dad
2 responses to “We are the People”
This is such a remarkable letter, Isa, and such a remarkable notion in its own right: to write
a passionate, thoughtful missive to one’s children annually. I applaud you; I am moved by your intelligence and thoughtfulness- and your art!
I discovered you through Jonathan SInger’s "Artists" page, and have really enjoyed your writings (The Map is not the Territory, Portals, etc.) Reading about your father just now, I see how honestly you come by the impulse to connect and instruct through the written word. His additional commandments are priceless! How wonderful to feel so deeply rooted and know unquestionably how valued you are. Thank you for sharing the love with us!
Thank you so much for this thoughtful response! I treasure any words that come my way in these days of emojis! Your comment inspired me to start writing this year’s essay, though my husband may take it over. I feel a bit more hope these days. I just popped onto your website and loved your images — and I adore any kind of archeology, any notion of footprint in artist work. Did Jonathan do your prints? It seems you are on the road a great deal but if you make it this way, let’s meet! My email is [email protected]. I’m going to find you on IG too. Best wishes right back..