What Reading Has Taught Me

I spend a good chunk of yesterday on Twitter, following the developments of the anti-refugee executive order signed by Trump—the protests, the lawyers sitting on the floor filing habeas briefs pro bono, the temporary stays ordered by Judges Donnelly and Brinkema. I retweeted news, contact numbers, recommendations to donate to groups fighting for refugees, and voicing my anger, sadness, and embarrassment at the actions of the government that claims to represent me. This is not a political blog and I’m not usually a political person. I don’t intend to turn this blog into another angry voice on the Internet. But I also don’t want my fellow readers to think that I am carrying on link normal. Though I am limited in what I can do, I am raising my voice against injustice.

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From Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi

Part of this is because my parents raised me right. (Thanks, Mom and Dad!) And part of this is because I am a reader. The books I read have given me glimpses into the lives of people of color, LGBTQ people, refugees, victims of crime, heroes and heroines, immigrants, and more. These glimpses have helped me learn to see the world from more than one perspective and be empathetic.

The news just this week has been so awful and outrageous (in the sense that it outraged me) that it’s tempting to disappear into fiction. Fiction is a splendid retreat from the world. But, as Jayson Flores recommends at The Mary Sue, we should not retreat into books or movies or other distractions. Readers can’t forget about the real world when events demand loud, decisive action. The stories we’ve read about all those different kinds of people should have taught us to be better than that.

I’ve been thinking more and more about Atticus Finch lately. In To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus defends a black man who was accused of raping a white woman. His defense shows the case to be a racist frame up. At one point, Atticus stands outside the jailhouse to defend his client from the possibility of being lynched by the townspeople. Atticus used his privilege as a white man to do the right thing. He did not stand aside because he wasn’t black or poor or because there was a certain amount of risk in taking on the job. But he stood up for his belief in justice. His bravery made a huge impression on me when I first read To Kill a Mockingbird. I consider Mockingbird to be one of the books that helped form me as a person and a reader.

I intend to use whatever privilege I have to resist the un-American and unconstitutional actions of the current president for as long as I have to.

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