Dear Anthony, Jack…maybe Kevin?
In this missive, I want to talk about one of the most important matters in life, something as critical as marriage, religion, or your choice of career.
I, of course, am referring to politics and how I hope you’ll approach the great problems of our country.
As a man, everything I know about this subject, I learned from your Grandma and Grandpa. Let me explain why. Growing up, I was an interesting child, a boy of great extremes; whenever I attempted something, I was either utterly brilliant at it or god-awful, the envy of the room or the butt of the joke — there was no in between. My attempts at sports almost always ended up in disaster.
For example, I can remember playing catch with your uncle Brian in the backyard. He tossed me the ball, about as soft as he could possibly throw it, a gentle breeze of a pitch that almost appeared in slow motion. Ever still, I caught it with my eyeball, ran in the house crying, and Grandma roughly scolded Brian for what occurred.
Consequently, he was left with the sort of look on his 10-year-old face that seemed to say, “There cannot be a God in this cold, dark universe.”
The problem was simple: I had a rather large head that made hand-eye coordination, and thus athletic ability, rather difficult. But my parents, instead of trying to force me into something I wasn’t — an athlete — encouraged me in the areas where I excelled: reading, writing and conversation.
And that’s the way our society ought to be. Americans should love and honor people for who they are, for their own unique talents, instead of only caring for those who fit into some preconceived notion of “success,” which is how we act now.
If you’re a lawyer, a doctor, or an accountant, folks will admire and praise you. But if you’re a waitress, janitor, or gardener, you’ll be looked down on by many, underpaid and therefore unable to live the American dream.
That’s why we must fight to change the laws so every worker, no matter their skill, earns the wages they deserve, a living wage, one that allows them to be happy. Some people are great at cleaning things, others know how to argue in courtrooms. But all our neighbors, no matter their profession, deserve to live with dignity, joy and security.
Next, there are important lessons to be learned from how Grandma and Grandpa treated me when times were hard, when I was young and sad and confused. Though I’m all better now, in my earlier years, I was often ill — chronically tired to be exact. I did nothing to deserve this fate. It was simply a symptom of the seizure medication I ingested. However, it wreaked hell on my school life, my grades were mediocre, I too often treated class as nap time and also developed a bit of a mouth.
I’d talk back to the teacher, always with a joke, which were often quite funny, but this led to many days of detention and phone calls home:
“Mrs. Heath, I asked Joshua why he constantly had to go to the bathroom. His response? ‘I have an enlarged prostate.’”
“Mrs. Heath, we were discussing Earth day at school this afternoon, and Joshua said the class should help the environment by never pooping again. This kind of sarcasm is not acceptable…”
Grandma and Grandpa, instead of reacting to these incidents with fury, understood I was a young guy trying to make the best of a tough time, who needed love and assistance in order to pull through. Whether it was positive words of encouragement, extra help with expenses, or a quiet place to nap, they did what was necessary for me to persevere and come of age.
Which is how the government ought to be. When our citizens go through difficulty they should be supported, not scorned or left to their own devices. That requires enacting laws to heal the sick, house the homeless, provide dignity for the disabled, and so much more. Every aspect of our politics, from city councils and school boards to Congress and the White House, must be driven by a very simple notion: When people are struggling, don’t point an accusatory finger. Carry them.
I hope that someday I can use those same talents your grandparents cherished in that clumsy little boy — the ability to read, and write and speak my piece — to make the world a little bit better, to make it more like them. Perhaps I’ll become an attorney or run for office, or maybe start a business that helps solve some pressing need.
But If I fail in that mission, at the very least, I will infuse their spirit into you.
Joshua Heath is a Valencia resident and a political science student at UCLA. He has served two terms as a delegate to the California Democratic Party. Democratic Voices runs every Tuesday in The Signal.