“…I tried to abandon this idea [that I should be a writer], but I did so with the consciousness that I was outraging my true nature…”
~George Orwell, Why I Write, 1946
The most impactful occurrence to my development in my teenage years was the terrorist attacks upon the United States on September 11, 2001. It is quite an experience, at the age of 15, to, already politically-aware and entering adulthood, be thrust into the harsh realities of real life by way of unfathomable mass murder. Suffice to say, as not even a resident of New York like the many with whom I later became great friends, it impacted me greatly.
Politics had appeared to be the way to understand the world, and 9/11 proved that the world beckoned much understanding. For it seemed many things about it were dreadfully amiss.
After 9/11, patriotism took the form of its extreme cousin jingoism, and though the least patriotic among us remained equally American and exercised equal freedoms, they might as well be consenting to literal treason.
But within months’ time, 9/11 brought on wars of global reach in various theaters. I was a conservative, an outspoken supporter of President George W. Bush and because many in my high school — both students, and an askew number of outlandishly outspoken teachers — held such distinctively liberal biases and such outward disdain for my conservatism, by their contrast I was but moments away from devolving into a goose-stepping fascist.
As the Iraq debate heated internationally, I, for perhaps the first time, put pen to paper with the explicit intent of convincing others of an opinion they did not share. Further, I intended for my written words to convey a side of myself that no opposition would listen to, or even believe existed.
Without a Chance to Speak, Write Instead
To they, I was but a right-wing cronie. My differing opinions, in so little as simply existing, were inherently wrong. They neglected to realize this, and worse, deemed me as being more close-minded, stubborn and ignorant than they were actually behaving. I recall vividly how one English teacher of mine, a former attorney, once leapt at the opportunity to verbally accost me about my political views when I raised some question — completely relevant to the subject at hand, mind you — about either Arthur Miller or his salesman, Willy Loman.
I was so taken aback her harshness, and how immediate and instinctive the venom was spewed from her, that I actually stood from my desk and left the room without a retort. Realizing her folly she left after me to apologize and ask me back to the classroom.
Disregarding the blatant irrelevance to my question, it was clear in her reaction that she, a grown woman, a teacher, a former attorney, actually disliked me based upon my completely rational political opinions. In my time at that school, I had my locker vandalized a handful of times with caricatures of President Bush as Lucifer, or Hitler, or some odd offspring of them both. My car was keyed some four times, the bumper stickers expressing my support of the President and American troops desperately attempted to be scratched off.
To Write Held a Unique Power
While the anti-war crowd plead to be victims of hawkish war-lovers, my experiences with the peacemakers saw my property destroyed, and worse, my name and character smeared. All the while, I found writing to be a powerful retort. For, to write held a unique power. And with that power I would hope to fulfill dual goals, and an unspoken third:
- One, I sought to put words to paper in such a fashion that even the most staunch of dissenting opinions would find their concreteness shaken and cracked.
- Two, to prove, as irrefutably evidenced by ink on paper, that I was not a mindless and stubborn grunt, but that my differing opinions held equal basis for origination and, so too, were equally legitimate.
And, the unspoken three, I wrote to satisfy something inside me that I had not yet come to fully understand…
Read the second half of this essay: “Why I Write (Part II)“