Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Letter to My Brother.

Unless someone like you cares a whole lot,
nothing is going to get better. It's not.

- Dr. Seuss, from The Lorax


Thanks for the letter. I was actually on the phone with Raymond most of the times you called, venting and everything, and then I was just too tired to want to talk anymore, so I watched "The Lorax"--do you remember that little cartoon based on the Dr. Seuss book, about someone cutting down all the trees in order to get rich, and all the animals and plants die off? Even though it's much more about the environment, I think its message relates back to the frustration both of us have been feeling recently.

In case I haven't told you this recently, I really am proud of you. I really think we're both so lucky to have our family, even if we fight sometimes over silly things. We've been blessed by wonderful examples in our lives of people who do care deeply about the world and work very hard to make a positive difference. I was just telling Dad that on the phone the other day--even though I joke about hating capitalism and business and everything, I really couldn't be prouder of you and all that you've accomplished (and will accomplish), because I know that you are an understanding and caring person, someone who has perspective and good priorities. I trust that you'll always work hard to do what is right, and that's far more important than any quibbles over ideological differences.

I get frustrated with the people around here because it's exactly like you said--their sole priority seems to be getting shit-faced and laid at every opportunity. And it is a waste, when there is so much more to life that is beautiful and worth-while. I thought things would change once I was out of college, but even the adults I know, people five, ten, even twenty years older than me are still behaving this way (if anything, it's worse, because those few "idealists" from college are expected to settle for being "practical"). It's because I feel so lucky for my life that I get so frustrated and lonely when I feel like I can't share it with those around me because they just don't care and aren't interested. Talk of responsibility and gratefulness, work ethic, restraint, complexity--all these are written off as naive idealism. The fact that I want to feel a connection with a person is laughed off as just being too innocent for my own good. They don't understand that when I blush at crude jokes, I'm not embarrassed for myself, I'm embarrassed for them, because it's demeaning to them to be so crass and shallow when they could be so much more than that.

Like you, I think I had a defining experience that shaped my whole attitude in this respect. For some reason, I think I've always been a little crusader for the weak and exploited (remember in elementary school when I had an "endangered species" club with my friends and we raised money to adopt a manatee?), so I didn't necessarily need to go to Brazil to understand how privileged I was. But back in 2003, I went with some college friends to a war protest in D.C., and on the way there, one of the cars in our caravan broke down. The group's self-appointed leader (and driver of the other car, the one I was in) decided to continue on to the protest, leaving the others behind in the middle of D.C. without a working cell phone and no guarantee they could get their car working again. I was so angry at her for that decision, which I thought was completely irresponsible. That's when I realized that that you can't just ignore those problems closest to you for the sake of solving the world's "larger" problems. How can you save the world, if you can't even care for your friends? How we interact with the people in our everyday lives is just as important as who we vote for or what charities we donate to.

So that kind of thinking trickles down, for me, to apply to even seemingly unrelated situations on a personal level, like rejected romance. It's not that I was shot down that hurt, so much as that the guy basically told me he thought I was a joke, and even seemed angry at me for spoiling his fun. If people can't find it in themselves to care for those immediately around them, if they treat even those people like mere objects to be used for pleasure or amusement instead of connecting with them in a meaningful way--then what hope is there that they'll care about the larger things? If they have no foundation in personal relationships and friendships, what do they have to build on? No one person can save the world alone, so we have to form those bonds of friendship and community, so that we can all support each other in becoming better. I try to be an example of that effort, but instead it seems like I'm just another punchline.

Anyway, having slept on it, I realize I was probably just overreacting, and probably not being fair to the guy, either, who must have felt awkward and unsure how to diffuse a potentially hurtful situation. Shrug. I'll talk to him later this week and I'm sure things will work out--it's not like I don't have experience in overcoming awkward situations. ;) Often I even make closer friends as a result. It's just a shame that's all it ever ends up being. When will I get to have a family, so that I can pass on all the good stuff that Dad and Mom gave to the two of us? What's the point of having so much to be grateful for, when you can't pass it on and share it with others?


(Parts 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6)

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