By Bryant Francis
Imagine, for a moment, being surrounded by darkness. Imagine, briefly, that could see was the blackness, all you heard was a cacophonous buzzing comprised of the thousands of voices you heard day after day. The noises are all trying to tell you how to think, how to speak, how to vote, how to brush your teeth.
That blackness is provided by the hundreds of images burning your eyes–you see the starving in Africa, the homeless in the Midwest, the devastated city of New Orleans. The voices are trying to tell you how to view these–using words such as “Dire consequences,” or “We cannot afford to let this happen,” or (my favorite), “We are better then this, we can stop this!” That was me; me from age ten, when I first was able to understand my first race for the president of the United States. I was told that John McCain was like me, he loved Star Wars, (even though I thought he was making fun of it), Al Gore was insignificant, George Bush was an idiot… what could I know? I was ten years old. That was me; me from age fourteen, three years after 9/11, one year after I saw our country enter my first war, during my second presidential election. George Bush was a war criminal, Kerry was wishy-washy. We had to get out of Iraq, we had good reasons to be in Iraq. The terrorists were evil, we made them that way. I still couldn’t understand… but everyone else seemed to. Where I saw blackness and heard jumbling noises, others seemed to have found clarity. I wonder now, was that truly clarity, or still just following the mindless herd that they claimed to be separate from? That was me; me from age seventeen, in February from earlier this year.
Once again, another election was coming, and I felt as though once again, I couldn’t know anything. I was a teenager whose only true skill was that he could dream of fantastic and ridiculous stories. Hillary or Obama? Republican or Democrat? We had to support the starving children in Africa, we couldn’t afford to help those starving children, we still had to help the Katrina victims! There was a difference this time, this time I was going to be able to vote, to cast my voice, to let myself be heard.
But could I be heard? Would it be me talking when I checked off a name on that ballot, or would it be my teachers, my friends, my favorite bands, and my parents? Would R. Bryant Francis be casting his vote, or Bono Fleming Francis? But imagine, again, if you were sitting in that dark void, listening to the endless noises, when suddenly, you heard a melody. You look up, glancing around. Surely with all that noise, nothing beautiful could emerge?
But it does. You stand up, walking around. A small CD player is sitting on a table before you. A song’s playing…but unlike all the ones you heard before, all the ones from your favorite bands–it’s different. There’s something there that wasn’t there before… it’s not sucking you in, instead, you’re choosing to stop and listen. It’s a thread you can grab onto, a golden line dragging across the darkness. In your hand, there’s a tool. You never saw it there before. You lift it up, examining it. For me, this tool is a keyboard… my fingers are dashing across it, transcribing fantastic stories, and realizing depth and meaning to them that wasn’t there before. Someone’s voice is beginning to ring through my head–my own. I am beginning to read words and understand them. I’m reading the books, listening to the ideas–and deciding their merit. I have made my choices, formed my decisions. I can vote for who I want, choosing whether or not to follow the crowd. In my blackness, I am now seeing definable things… people and places… concepts and ideas. I am hearing the voices, listening to the music. The darkness is fading, and I feel the white noise begin to deafen.
I am emerging.