the school for citizens

November 14th, 2016

5357047-una-campana-grande-de-metal-con-una-grieta-a-traves-de-el“What do you think of western civilization?” a reporter asked Gandhi.
“I think it would be a good idea,” he replied.

You who are most afraid of this country that we have become, hear this.

There is only one place. The one you’re in. You can never leave, but you can turn it inside out. Do you want to live in friendship or fear? Peace or paranoia? We are each citizens of the place we make, so make it a better place.

Do not waste time deceiving yourself with “what ifs” or “how comes” or that noisy drum of self-righteousness, “I told you so.” I, for one, will not listen to any more ugly, ignorant blame. The facts are simply too blatant to argue. More people are suffering, and will suffer, at the hands of their own neighbors. We don’t need to know how this started to know how it will end. Will you merely stand witness to destruction and degradation or will you heed the bell?

Our daughter went to the public school down the street. The hallways were a little scruffy. The classrooms were crowded. The kids were just neighborhood kids. Not a single one looked like any other. She called them her friends, and she had far more friends than I did. The money there was scarce, but the opportunity was wide open and free.

It wasn’t my first choice, but in the end, it was my only choice.

On the first day of kindergarten, the teacher stood before an array of beautiful faces. She spoke loudly to reach the pack of teary parents spectating at the back of the room.

“Our job is to create citizens,” she declared, and turned to face the flag. I placed my hand over my heart with allegiance. I didn’t know I still had the old feeling in me, but at that moment, the school for citizens had created one more.

It’s a new school day. There is so much to learn and share. Claim your citizenship. Stand up and speak. Correct wrongs. Defend rights. Demand fairness. Do good without ceasing. And do good not just for yourself, but for the very ones who are causing the most harm. I happen to know some of them. I have to overcome my own fear, hatred and resentment of them or my pledge is false.

My kindergartener is now 17. The morning after the election she went to school as if it was a normal day. At 7:22 am, she sent me a text. “Mommy, I am scared.” Not scared of the school or of the radiantly diverse people there, but scared of her own life and future. And so I pound out these words with hopeful urgency. Wake up!

This is based on a chapter from Hand Wash Cold, a book I wrote nearly eight years ago. Eight years is not so long. Four years is even less. One week has already passed. The bell has rung. The bell has rung. The bell has rung.


The grieving among us (and I am one) have asked for guidance as we enter this dark and savage night. Below is a link to the recording of a talk I gave in Kansas City last weekend to those assembled in the sanctuary of retreat.

A Special Message from Maezen


  1. I am thankful for these grounding words and the reminder that suffering is part of life. The only response that is adaptive rather than just expressive is compassion and loving kindness expressed toward all whether I agree with them or not. To embrace anger and hatred is to ride the rip tide and be washed into a sea of mindless negative emotion.

    Comment by Jacqueline Neuman — November 14, 2016 @ 11:12 am

  2. Love, love, love this post and special audio message. You have chosen love over fear. I have also. I hope we all do who are grieving. I received this from A Course in Miracles’

    “Our nation is divided.

    There’s a lot of fear and uncertainty…

    There’s a lot of people panicking…


    And in these uncertain times we are seriously challenged to remember the most fundamental of A Course In Miracles teachings:

    “A miracle is a shift in perception from fear to love.”

    Now, more than ever is the time for us to BE the miracles we want to see in the world.

    I love you.

    this from ‘A Course in Miracles'”

    We need to spread these messages through our actions and words. May it be so.

    Comment by Shawn — November 14, 2016 @ 11:40 am

  3. Thank you for sharing your perspective. After a challenging day at work (I teach 5th & 6th grade in a high poverty area), I needed some clarity to know how to make tomorrow better. Your words helped me to see that I have been judging not only some with whom I work who have a vastly different view than mine, but also my children who are only responding according to their modeling and feeding off of my energy. Thank you.

    Comment by Lisa Samson — November 14, 2016 @ 7:48 pm

  4. “Our job is to create citizens,” Muy buena idea! No tengan miedo. Hay una oportunidad para vuestro país. Y la oportunidad se presenta todos los días… buscar lo que los une en desmedro de lo que los separa. En Argentina, donde vivo… el deporte nacional es justamente lo contrario… siempre vemos lo que nos separa… y así estamos. Son un gran país y mucha gente los mira y los toma como referencia. Que vendrá… ya lo veremos. Por de pronto… una buen ejercicio es ver lo que los une… que es mucho mas de lo que los separa. Saludos

    Comment by Santiago Lynch — November 15, 2016 @ 4:28 am

  5. Good job! The whole package.
    Abrazos, Bobby

    Comment by Bobby Byrd — November 15, 2016 @ 9:04 am

  6. Thank you.

    Comment by Nathan Hayes — November 15, 2016 @ 11:08 am

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