I was 13 years old when the movie Hair was released and the first time I heard the song "Easy to Be Hard." I was in high school and well on my way to becoming I am now. Raised by two socialists, I was political from my first breath. Some call us bleeding hearts, as if it's a bad thing. Some make fun of us by saying we're weak or pushovers and that we take up every cause du jour. I ask myself all the time, "when social justice became a partisan issue." When did social justice become a thing to even debate? And how can people honestly not advocate for all people, not just those whose looks mirror our own?
Although written by Galt MacDermot, James Rado and Gerome Ragni, was originally sung by Jill O'Hara in 1967 and became Three Dog Night's biggest hit to date in 1969, it's the version by Cheryl Barnes that I hear every time I read or hear about another instance of social injustice and I'm compelled to act and/or write.
The simplest of lyrics, "Easy to Be Heard" perfectly illustrates the inequities of our so called advanced society, and how incredibly fucked up human beings are to one another: both people we know personally, and in a broader sense, globally.
How can people have no feelings
How can they ignore their friends
Easy to be proud
Easy to say no
Especially people who care about strangers
Who care about evil and social injustice
Do you only care about the bleeding crowd
How about a needing friend
I need a friend
Social Justice and Writing: A Calling
Last week I wrote a blog offering advice on how to set your prices. Writing for money is what we do because we have to eat, so recognizing the value we provide allows us to set our prices. But there's more to writing than simply making money.
We writers serve a valuable function in society. We have a way with words and we can all be influencers. All of us.
We have the ability to articulate what people think and feel but can't necessarily express well. We need to see ourselves as messengers and evangelists. We need to see what we do as having a calling.
I have many writer friends who already use their voices to advocate for what they believe in. Thank you! I'm appealing to those of you who don't yet.
As you think about ways to make money—because feeding ourselves is crucial, I get it—I am going to ask you to consider using your talent / gift / learned skill to effect change. If each writer I know devoted one day a month to writing a piece that speaks out against social injustice and offers ways to make social justice a reality and not the butt of jokes, we really can make a difference.
Pick a topic and advocate for it. I admit I may take this concept to the extreme. I am deeply concerned about a lot things: Women's health, the toll addiction takes on families and society at large, Puerto Rico, the environment, sexual assault, racism, marriage equality and marijuana legalization.
You needn't be as frenetic as I am to make a huge difference. We've been given a gift. I just ask that, as writers, we consider not just our wallets but using our voices to reach others. As I say, if each of us wrote one essay a month, we could make a difference. Even if you don't get them accepted in a major outlet, publish it on your own website or Medium.
The inequities in our society shouldn't be ignored and I am not suggesting any of us ignores them. I am, however, saying by staying silent, we're not using our gift for anything but personal gain.
Photo credit: Tekvar