Dear Gentlefolk at Compassionate Care, Natural Resources Defense Council, Amnesty International, Southern Poverty Law Center, DNC, Planned Parenthood, Save the Polar Bears, UNICEF, ACLU, PBS, AARP, International Rescue Committee for Syrian Refugees, Doctors Without Borders, Friends of the Earth, Habitat For Humanity, Coalition Against Gun Violence, Santa Monicans For Renter’s Rights…. plus KPCC and S.M. Emeritus which receive monthly pledges and those I’m sure I’ve forgotten…. I have supported you all and you’re all deserving and tied for first place.
But you’re killing me with Thank You notes. When I send you twenty-five bucks you send me $23.00 worth of acknowledgements in the form of bumper stickers, address labels, shopping bags, T-shirts, coffee mugs and maps. Enough already; just cash the check and shut up or remove me from your list. I know you are out there. I don’t need these costly mailers. Get a grip. Please, no more slick pictures of emaciated children, melting icebergs, mass-shootings, battered housewives or shipwrecked rafts. I get it.
You are clogging my mailbox, real and virtual. I spend an hour each day deleting the glut of petitions and surveys from Democratic Headquarters, Move-On, Nation Of Change, solicitations from worthy magazines, research for diseases from AIDS to Zika, Congressional campaigns and advocacy groups for the elderly. Yes, yes, I know about the dwindling bee population, danger of pesticides, reckless greed of Big Pharma and cruelty to chickens. How should I rank the pleas? Is the threat of a dysentery epidemic in Mali more or less deserving than rebuilding homes in the devastated ninth ward still waiting after Katrina? What about the inhumanity in the treatment of our undocumented detained and deported? Or the homeless right here in Los Angeles? And notice, I haven’t once even mentioned Trump, the elephant in my brain.
I’ve reached the point where I dare not open the mail. Saying, No, hurts too much. I wish I were a rich man! Fixed incomes don’t stretch. I apologize for having been born Here in the cosmic crap-shoot as opposed to There. Yes, I do live under fair skies, all body parts accounted for, neither ill-clad nor ill-fed with fair skin in this white-man’s bubble of humanity. So writing is what I do. A message in a bottle thrown off the Santa Monica Pier, as Maud said to Harold, so I’ll always know where it is.
Even the best words in the best order won’t feed the hungry or reverse our acceleration to Fahrenheit doom but words can become swords with the addition of a single letter. Poets, and writers do best when they render their authentic selves, not as diatribe but as expressions of imagination and honesty, the ultimate subversion. Deceit lies at the core of our ills and truth-telling through art is a threat to the masters of denial and subterfuge. It is no coincidence that support for the Arts is on the chopping block.
As for the marriage of Art and Society, that’s a subject for another day. The task is to channel vehemence into an evocative voice which speaks to an audience beyond the choir … without expectation of return mail.