The mighty pen - FamilyEducation

The mighty pen

October 12,2010
Despite the fact that L. hardly ever writes at school, and that writing is sometimes painful and always very difficult for him, he's always been a writer at heart. By this I mean that his first impulse, when feeling some injustice or the need for a connection, he sits down to write a letter. Years ago we took the kids to Cape Hatteras and L. wanted to climb the lighthouse there. A surly, snappish official lighthouse person told L., right at the door to the lighthouse, that he didn't meet the height requirement and, therefore, couldn't enter. While rules are rules, the official lighthouse person's manner certainly could have used some work. L. was deeply hurt by this injustice, and together we helped him write a letter to the headquarters of the official lighthouse people. We never heard back. L. also wrote a letter once to Southwest Airlines, petitioning that they consider building a runway in our backyard. He must have been only four at the time, yet he sensibly laid out some very compelling arguments for how convenient and even cost-effective this move would be. No answer. Recently, he wrote a letter to Microsoft Corporation, extolling the virtues of Windows XP. "Do you think they'll write back?" He asked me, as we sealed the envelope and stuck a stamp on it. "I hope so!" I said, but I was doubtful. But Microsoft DID write back, and promptly, too. Granted, it was a generic sort of letter, but it was carefully addressed to L., and even referred to him as a "valued customer"--something L. was really proud about. Even though I'm a Mac person, I felt a rush of gratitude toward Microsoft Corporation, and for whoever out there had taken the time to address the letter. He's written letters to people he admires, and letters requesting more product information, and even written up petitions of protest over "unfair" school practices. The other night we were sitting in the living room and we heard outraged exclamations coming from L.'s bedroom. When we checked, we found L. furiously bent over his keyboard. He was writing to...the Chinese government. He had somehow, upon reading about the history of the domestic cat, discovered that in some Chinese provinces it had been/was considered acceptable to eat them. "This is an outrage!" He exclaimed, tapping away at his keyboard. We spent a good deal of time that night talking about cultural differences, and how they might affect things like eating habits and traditions surrounding food--L. didn't buy any of it. Ironically, I am also currently reading Eating Animals, by Jonathan Safron Foer, who addresses this very thing early on in his book. In our culture we get fiercely possessive and emotional about our domestic pets (eat a dog?! Barbaric!) yet we think nothing of eating pigs, who, as evidence shows, are every bit as intelligent (if not more so, arguably) then the average domestic dog. He calls this "anthropodenial"--our willingness to look the other way when it comes to considering the feelings of so-callled "lesser creatures" while at the same time we constantly project human qualities and characteristics on our domestic animals. More on Foer's book tomorrow....but I think L.'s instinct to write letters, to turn to the pen as a means of protest, speaks volumes for how he gets it--he gets the power of the written word, and he's committed to the hope that goes along with each painfully written word, and each sealed letter. And even if he's still not writing at grade level--or whatever that means by today's educational standards--I think it's clear that he's writing just fine by most people's standards--and by his own, which is exactly what counts the most.