“A writer’s notebook is not a diary. Writers react. Writers need a place to record these reactions. That’s what a writer’s notebook is for. It gives you a place to write down what makes you angry or sad or amazed, to write down what you noticed and don’t want to forget. A writer’s notebook gives you a place to live like a writer.” - Ralph Fletcher
By Charles Bivona
“Doesn’t it make you feel shame?”
I was talking to a Brazilian citizen. We met at a friend’s dinner party. The conversation turned almost instantly to my American-ness.
“You are a poet, a man of peace. You champion these ideas, yes? “
He’d read some of my work. He quoted me directly. He was calling me out, and I had nothing.
“Doesn’t it bother you,” he pushed on, “the things your government does in your name, with your tax dollars? Doesn’t it hurt you, to be part of so much killing?”
He was serious. He was visibly bewildered.
“Well, um, yes,” I was stammering, “of course, but it’s difficult to break out of the American state of mind.” My voice was shaking. “I mean, I’ve had one message drilled into my head since I understood language: ‘America is the best. We were the good guys in every war. We saved the world in World War II. We beat communism in Russia.’ Shit, Rocky beat up a giant Russian when I was in High School. It’s been USA! USA! my entire life, you know what I mean?”
I laughed, nervously. He didn’t. He looked confused.
“Anyway,” I continued “the point is, these deeply entrenched ideas are not easily expelled from one’s mind.”
The Brazilian’s simple advice: “Try.”
I was stunned to silence.