Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added) is the best-kept secret among contemporary American writers. --John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Letter to a Young Journalist

I don't know that I have any good advice for you except to put the right words in the right order, and to seek the truth. Neither is easy, it seems. But you asked, and so I will try.

We live in grievous times. Late events tell us that our country is not free from what used to be called sin. And on the other side of the ocean, right now, a teenage girl is hanging from a hook in the ceiling; tonight she may be raped by officers. Tomorrow she may die. In a different corner of the world, people are being murdered or driven out of their homes because they are Christians or because they are the wrong color. And in yet another place, children escaped from a war-torn home country are trying to reach free land, and some of them are trapped in holding facilities and some are drowning as the boat to freedom, as it so often does, grows weighty and sinks slowly into the sea. This little list could go on endlessly, embracing people of many colors and cultures. They are all our brothers and sisters, these invisible people, part of the worldwide family.

I don't see these things on the front page of my newspaper or my home page on the web. I have to look for them at places like Human Rights Watch: Defending Human Rights Worldwide. Looking is good.

Remember that no president in your or any lifetime should be shielded from the people's knowledge of his acts. Remember that there is such a thing as evil, and that it is roaming the world. Remember that the central, most important questions are not fanboy-fangirl issues like who is going to be the lucky Mrs. Cumberbatch or why that clever Emma Watson keeps a mere eight pairs of shoes--they aren't even about the outcome of a senate race (senators we have always with us) or the latest scandal in the NFL.

Be generous to others. Yet do not be hobbled by other people's ideas, no matter how much they compel followers. In fact, question group opinion, whether in the press or academia. (Go ahead and question my opinion, right now.)

It may not be easy, and it may demand your life, but the call is simple. Love the world. Seek goodness. Avoid adverbs. Shine light into the darkness.

2 comments:

  1. mary bullington2:53 PM, June 27, 2013

    Am sending this letter to my nephew Joseph, who is a wonderful young writer.

    ReplyDelete

Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.