I remember a prayer I once heard at a meeting of people from dysfunctional homes: "God, make me as big as I was before I had to get small enough to fit into my family." Now that our country has swapped out one "dad" for another, perhaps that’s not such a bad prayer for all us American offspring.
I got a one-two punch of social consciousness from recent media grazing. First was Milk, the finely etched (albeit slightly rambling) biopic of gay civil-rights activist Harvey Milk. After I was done being impressed by the acting and the spot-on re-creation of the 1970s, I was left with a sense of wonder that one person could accomplish so much. Granted, that is a cornerstone of the American credo, but how long has it been since any of us have really believed we could make a difference?
Part 2 of the punch came amid what could easily have been a fever-induced fantasy — but which instead became a cold, clean reality on Jan. 20. And President Obama (no, I haven’t gotten tired yet of the way that sounds) reinforced in his inauguration speech something he’s been mentioning all along: that fixing things isn’t just his job; it’s all of our jobs. It’s time for us all to get off our disempowered and disenfranchised asses and rediscover what each of us can do to be at least 2 percent Milk in our own circles. (Go ahead — dare to be whole Milk.)
Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher asked all their glamorous and telegenic friends to pledge what they will do to make a change; it’s all in a corny, but not unwatchable video on YouTube.com. (Use the search words "I pledge Ashton" — or "I pledge Demi," if that’s more palatable). All those coiffed talking heads will spend the last 90 seconds asking you what you plan to pledge. Well?
To me, the salient question comes back to that prayer. Are we willing to be bigger than we became convinced we are? To do more than we anticipate we can? Perhaps the orientation of Harvey Milk has me fixated on recent gay-themed social issues, especially last year’s murder of 15-year-old Lawrence King here in Oxnard. Have those of us for whom that tragedy left a scar done enough in response? I realize we are a small county, made up of humble communities — and we were suddenly amid a large crisis. I will wonder aloud about how we handled it. What reform, what new avenues of communication have opened since this tragedy?
I will mention, having used my meager talents to try and create a project to address the gay-straight issues that became so painfully clear, that my attempted collaboration with our local gay and lesbian center was perplexing and disheartening. I am not bringing this up to attack any of our local organizations, but rather to present an instance where we collectively couldn’t become bigger than we had been. And I can’t help but compare the meekness and/or lethargy involved in this specific situation with a larger, statewide version that allowed Prop. 8 to pass. Did we all grow as big as we could to address that challenge?
I’m sure this is starting to sound preachy. But I’m also sure that we could all be doing more. And we are finally being asked to. By the cool new President who, unlike his predecessor, seems to actually be one of us — in every way except the intelligence thing, where he mercifully outclasses us.
How will we stretch past our limitations and habits? It doesn’t all have to be grand gestures. You could stop letting the TV rest on Fox News, even though you don’t think anybody notices. (If you have a DVR, your choices are being recorded.) You could go to USAservice.org or DoSomething.org or leave your keyboard, go outside and hug a tree or a crack baby or the last person you weren’t particularly kind to.
How big are you, really?
Scott’s blog, "Multiple Personality," can be found at blog.scottpatrickwagner.com