There will be no fireworks where I live this year. It is too dry. As I write this, rain is predicted–the first time in four months, but then again, I live in the desert. But even if it rains, no fireworks. Too many wildfires already. Palm trees burn explosively, sending sparks onto dry brush and roofs. I understand, but it will feel different.
Every July, I wonder what it would be like if my parents hadn’t emigrated, hadn’t made a life in America. If I hadn’t been born here, mis-identified by my parents as “our little Native American.” I didn’t understand their mistake till my fifth grade teacher called me Little Raining Cloud. The smallest and youngest in my class, and, unfortunately in a rural school, bad at sports and good at math, I cried a lot. Kids made fun of the way I dressed (hand-me-downs), my European pronunciation of English, and my braids. I could not decipher why they all wanted to sit around me when it came time for tests, when they despised me the rest of the day.
What makes me still and silent on this day of bright celebration, is what has happened to our culture since 9/11. I remember before that day, our country was brash, and open and daring. After that day, fear dominated. We fear immigrants. We fear dark-skinned people. We fear non-Christians. We give up privacy and freedom in exchange for a false sense of protection. We separate the world into “them” and “us.” And “them” are wrong. News, which once was the inviolable ground of neutrality, is now a snipe fest of blame and blood. Common sense is hanging on by its thin fingernails, as we beg the question, believe in correlation instead of cause, and pay no attention to critical thinking because rage and hurled invective is so much more demonstrative of patriotism than calm and rational thinking.
So today, I am carefully sweeping up the shards of my hope, digging in my backpack for leftovers of compassion, and digging out the last few grains of kindness. It may not be much, but I won’t trade them for the more colorful and dramatic fear. I won’t let fear stay in my house or in my heart. I want to be determined in good will, in optimism, in helping those who need help. Eventually, if you live by the sword, you die by the sword, and I want to live by kindness instead.
—Quinn McDonald is a writer and creativity coach. She is a creativity coach who believes that kindness can transform, one person at a time.