It’s always impressive when civic-mindedness takes such a creative twist. If you hadn’t bravely trespassed on private property in the dead of night and stolen my family’s sign protesting the proposed Dominion pipeline through our county, we’d have missed out on a few valuable opportunities. So, with all sincerity, thank you.
As a direct result of your actions, there’s been a lot of conversation in our home today. You’ve offered my husband and me the opportunity to talk with our 5- and 7-year-olds about things like private property, theft, and trespassing. Of course, they’re elementary-school-aged, so their sense of right and wrong is already better-developed than that of the average small-time lawbreaker. But your theft has also provided us with the occasion to discuss First Amendment rights, as well as what it means to be a good citizen of both our nation and our planet. Of course, my children are 5 and 7, so I’m anticipating that we’ll also have to reassure them about their safety in a world in which small-minded people break the law in order to inflict harm on others, and we’ll probably have to deal with some nightmares about the “bad guys” coming into our yard. But in the grand scheme of things, I consider this a small price to pay for raising children who become the kind of strong, mature human beings who don’t feel so threatened by other people’s opinions that they feel compelled to silence them at any cost.
As my boys and I snuggled up to read library books together this afternoon, I took a deep breath to calm myself, and explained to my children that I felt hurt and angry that you’d stolen our sign in your attempt to silence us. (I did not tell them about the fear you struck into this mother’s soul by allowing your own anger–or fear?–to motivate you to trespass on the land where my babies play.) My 5-year-old said, “I want to hurt them.” In that, too, you gave me a teachable moment. I said, “I want to hurt them too, baby, but I’m not going to, because it’s not okay to hurt people. It’s okay to want to. It’s okay to be mad. But it’s not okay to hurt other people.”
Let me just repeat that for your benefit: It’s not okay to hurt people. It’s okay to want to. It’s okay to be mad. But it’s not okay to hurt other people.
I wonder, when you stopped your car or van or pickup under cover of darkness, if it occurred to you that two little boys might be sleeping in the house at the end of that driveway. I wonder what on earth could possibly scare you so much about one family’s love for this county, this state, this nation, this planet, that you would attempt to silence us by breaking multiple laws. I wonder to whom exactly you think the First Amendment applies. I wonder if the irony of any of this strikes you now.
But I digress, and I don’t want to get distracted from the point of this letter, which is, after all, to thank you. Because, in addition to the previously mentioned opportunities, you’ve also given my husband and me the chance to teach our kids what it means to persist in the face of opposition, to stand up for what we believe, to refuse to be silenced by cowardly people acting out of ignorance under cover of darkness. You’re also helping me to teach my children the power of words–to protest, to offend, to advocate, to instill fear, to express our deepest convictions. “No Pipeline!”–those two little words must have a pretty potent hold over you. I hope you’re enjoying your new sign.
And, of course, you’re right. That flimsy little plastic sign was nothing. Just wait till you see what we’ve got planned. Thanks for the opportunity for a do-over. This time, we’re going to really do this thing. I trust you’ll appreciate the results. You know where to look.