I don't like publishing things on-line--I don't even like blogging, actually--before publishing for real, but I have some bits of confidence about this piece and think that people should read it. Plus, it's timely. After posting it here it will also adorn the sample-writing page for a short while. You'll also be able to find it on Goodreads. Then I will send it around to various publishers to see if anyone will publish it. Many thanks to Danielle, my darling, for typing out what was originally written by hand. Even with her noteworthy hard work typing it out, note that I have yet to edit any of this. Woops.
"I Am a Communist"
I am not a Communist. I just wanted to get your attention. I am, however, an anarchist. Neither Communism nor anarchy are particularly favored here in the west, and for that reason I hope to have doubly garnered your attention. Yet the reason why I am an anarchist and can say that I agree with Marx’s ideas – freeing every individual to do what they please, within reason – though I do not appreciate the collective aspect – is quite compatible with American democracy and ideals, and why I am writing this essay, because I believe we do not give enough thought to the implication of those ideals. (footnote)
Let me begin by telling a few brief stories, at least two of which may convince you that I’m a terrible person.
In ninth grade I had an English teacher named Mr. Lewis. At least I think that’s his name. Mr. Lewis was clearly a little strange: he had a long ponytail of graying hair, weirdly large eyes, rarely did he button his cuffs so his shirt sleeves were always flailing about, and he never quite looked clean. All the same I liked Mr. Lewis. He was funny, gentle, but never took any crap, and if I paid more attention in my early years I could have learned a lot from him. As it is, Common Errors (grammar) A-F will never leave me.
One day Mr. Lewis was teaching on a book that I didn’t like nor do I remember. All that stands out to me in my memory (and I’m pretty sure this is all that I could remember of the book even while reading it) is a character named Phineas and someone falling down stairs. The book isn’t the point. The point is that while talking about something or other that might be helpful for me to know in telling this story, a student raised hand and said “Who cares about this? Some people think stupid stuff, I shouldn’t have to try and understand them or respect them." The “who cares” is a typical 9th grade sentiment, but apparently Mr. Lewis was bothered by the whole argument. It seemed random to me at the time, probably because of my reaction, but Mr. Lewis responded, “I am a Communist. Does that matter? Does that make me less of a person?” Yes, yes it does, I thought. I had yet to learn what communism meant, being too young to recall the shake-ups of 1991, and not caring much about the news, but somehow I knew that Communists were either silly and stupid or “just plain bad,” in my ninth grade lingo. I was appalled. Never did I respect Mr. Lewis again, though he still made me laugh and was still in control of my grades. For the final couple of months with him as my teacher, I simply could not get it out of my head that I was subjugated to learning from a stinking Communist.
. . . . . . . . . . .
Looking back on my life, I am not certain when I became friends with Mike Rodriguez. I know that we first met in middle school when we were at some camp together or somewhere that my friends and I were playing volleyball. Mike and his friends walked to the volleyball court to play against us. I later came to be friends with everyone on the sand that day, but at the time I had no idea who any of these people were, which only made their rudeness worse. Unfortunately, they were most rude to Mike, making him the butt of jokes and often saying, “Don’t pull a Mike.” At some point Mike switched to our team but his friends treatment of him only worsened. Without even knowing who Mike was, I felt that I should protect him somehow. We haven’t talked in a long time but I know that Mike would hate me if he ever heard that I felt the need to protect him. That feeling, though, motivated me to play better for and with him. Mike and I had fun, I think, developing some volleyball chemistry together and, though I can’t remember who won, I know he and I and my friends then played well enough to give Mike some bragging rights.
Within a few years Mike and I were good friends. I’m not sure what made us friends, but I’ll venture to guess it was that we both felt respected by the other without effort (and for a while the girl we both like played us off one another). What’s funny and horrible about the friendship that we had is that, as soon as we became friends, he became the butt of my jokes. What’s funny about that is I was not, until then, the type of person to make fun of others – unless I hated them, in which case they weren’t my friends.
Why did I start making fun of Mike who, in a number of ways, was my truest friend? In Spanish class one day, our teacher, who was and is hilarious and friendly, said to Mike genially that he saw Mike and his mother exiting the Jewish temple after a service. I looked at Mike and couldn’t believe it: a real Jew! Our teacher asked how often Mike went to temple and Mike said rarely, clearly flustered and frustrated with the questions. Being the nice guy that he is our teacher took the hint and stopped asking questions – he often wanted his students to know that he was interested in their lives, but Mike was not interested. Clearly Mike was not much into practicing Judaism, though I hate that phrase taken from Catholics being applied to Catholics or Jews, but from then on I had a reason to make fun of Mike: he was a Jew for goodness sakes.