By Jennifer Edelson
July, 2005, 12:25
Julyís entry comes to you from the great city of Philadelphia, via the state of Pennsylvania, the one-time United States capital and the origin of modern American democracy.
Sitting here in my hotel room, after a long day of touring Independence Hall and a plethora of other historical monuments, surrounded by amazing tales of liberty while I eat a salty pretzel looped in a tight knot symbolic of something that eludes me, I feel compelled diary, if not inspired, to think about all the things I might accomplish with my writing.
Philadelphia has seen a lot of intellectual insurgency. The city bleeds history, and all its stories about independence and emancipation have me thinking maybe too seriously about my role as a writer and human being. You know what diary? It sure would be nice to write like Jefferson and Hamilton and Franklin, people who wielded their pens in lieu of weapons and altered history.
Writers already have a unique voice. But as our forefathers proved, visionary writing has the potential to inspire progress. Like the liberty bell, a writerís declaration resonates in rich timbers that affect and influence collective ideals. And diary, as you and I know, many writers have, through their characters, ideas, commentary and cleverly crafted stories, shaped people who left to their own devices, might not otherwise listen.
Isnít it true that writers have an uncanny ability to get to the heart of a matter faster than most of us doing the talking? I mean weíve already learned to knead our thoughts and twist them like my pretzel, into pointed, affecting words that compel people to read. As people who worship representation, it sure seems like we have the capacity to transform the status quo when the status quo isnít working.
You know diary, I often forget that in the United States, the First Amendment protects my right to speak up, to protest and speak out against things like crappy government and other civil injuries. And it seems even more important now, when I remember that these are the rights our founding fathers fought for when they broke free from England.
A lot of countries have similar safeguards, and we sure are lucky to have such freedom. But being here reminds me; I may not always be as fortunate if I donít make use of the gifts Iíve been given.
To steal a quote from a local museum wall, Alexander Hamilton said, ďThose who stand for nothing fall for anything.Ē Well sitting here, right now, in the city of brotherly love, I have to tell you that I believe most all of us hold tight to some ideal, some notion of democracy and autonomy that we desperately want to preserve. Since we the people with a talent to tell a tall tale and manipulate words, know how to articulate and defend what we believe in, donít you think itís time to get crackin'?
Philadelphia, youíve inspired this writer. I want to do more than just mull over inequities. Itís time to take a stand. To put my money where my mouth is so to speak. Itís time to pull out my Uni-Ball and let the red ink spill like revolutionary blood across my big broad sheet of paper. Because this week has also taught me that compared to warfare, it doesnít take much to write my heart out for 10 minutes.
I want to advocate for others who arenít as privileged Ė to brandish my words so they slice through whatever scratchy blanket of oppression shrouds our often universal ideologies. Maybe Iíll craft a letter, or an essay, or a straight-up opinion. Write a play that broadcasts my concern, or even some ironic tragi-comedy. You can help diary.
Letís campaign, you and me, and I pinky swear that weíll feel better for being activists. For knowing that even if just in the tiniest way, our words made a difference.
And maybe, diary, people will view life and liberty through our eyes and see what it is we so cherish.
Jennifer Edelson is a Minnesota attorney and legal writing professor. Her writing has appeared on all the finest refrigerators in the Twin Cities. Jennifer can be emailed at: email@example.com