Our Brothers’ Keepers, an Open Letter to My Fellow Creators

To My Fellow Creators,

This year has been strange. At times, it has pranced and pirouetted along the edge of an abyss in which dwell insanity, rage, despair. I watched as, one by one, the world lost beautiful creative luminaries. I watched as my country cut off its nose to spite its face, and almost half of my fellow citizens voted for a narcissist who will destroy what I hold most dear about this political experiment of ours.

The world seems darker, now. That I cannot deny. We opened a Pandora’s Box this year, and let free all the twisted, shadowed wraiths that haunt our collective psyche–racism, misogyny, bigotry, xenophobia, anti-intellectualism, the myopic greed of consumption for its own sake and environmental rapine. These things are the dream cattle of famine, rising from the river, and they will consume all that is good and rich about us, culturally, scientifically, artistically.

Or, at least, they will try. We cannot let them. I have read my fill of calls for unity and reconciliation until I am sick of them. I say, it is not unquestioning unity we need, whether as Americans or members of the human race, although we will have to find a way to live together without bending a knee to hateful or disgusting attitudes. Because these things must be fought if they are not to be our curtain call.

Fight. Not argue. Not attack or mock or deride. I address this to creative individuals, primarily because we touch the world in a way that differs from the rigor of a scientist’s data or the integrity of a scholar’s research. Art touches spaces within us that are pre-verbal, even when we write our art. It humanizes us, disturbs us, lifts us high, heals the invisible wounds we carry, wounds us so that we understand the pain of others. It is the exercise of empathy, of connection.

I cannot say to you what precisely you should do in the coming months, but I feel that never before has our species needed our work as it does now; as it will in years beyond the threshold of this one. Make art–create, build, grow, connect, and nurture. Get together with creators you know, meet those you don’t. Collaborate. There is always time for solitary work, but I believe that cross-medium collaboration on a massive scale is the only thing that will stem the wave of hate and fear I feel gathering force.

700 reported acts of violence that were racially, culturally, or sexually motivated in three weeks–this is what followed America’s Election of 2016. But this horrifying statistic is the tsunami glimpsed in deep water. It will gather catastrophic force before its energy, so long pent beneath the thinnest veneer of civility, is finally spent. But no person of conscience should bow out of this struggle.

In addition to refusing to bow in defeat, to twisted rhetoric that cherry picks statistics on crime, climate, or the economy, we’ll have to put out into the world such a mass of creative energy that it turns back the force of hatred upon itself. Public art, community projects that nurture and elevate, anthologies, impromptu performances, photography of both journalistic and artistic scope–we must be busy and we must be focused on what matters.

To my fellow creators–do not be afraid of darkness in your craft. That, too, has its function. We can do much to reveal the underbelly of ethical and social turpitude that has emerged into plain view. We can be advocates and protectors of the communities vulnerable to bigotry and hate crimes. We can and must all bear witness, and be strong enough not to look away.

In this, we are our brothers’ keepers, and the guardians of what is most valuable about our species.
With my love,
Erin

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