The Importance of Reading Everything

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By Christina Miranda

Books.

That one famous sentence, “I don’t have time to read,” always follows their mention. I myself am guilty of uttering those words occasionally. However, with the Trump administration in power, that sentence is not a valid excuse anymore. Now that Trump has taken drastic and hateful action against Latinx civilians along with other marginalized groups, there has never been a greater urgency for voracious, informative reading.

After the inauguration, the sense of escape in reading science fiction and fantasy was a minor relief for me. Neil Gaiman’s works were especially helpful (it doesn’t get better than flying ships and mythical dream gods). But then a familiarity emerged from them. Dangers sat everywhere - there was no stable sense of safety. The discomfort of uncertainty lurked quietly in a corner, always watching.

I reference Gaiman, for while he can manifest the most fearsome monsters and terrifying nightmares, there is also hope for the characters trapped inside his stories. During this Gaiman binge, I found these words lying within his Tumblr page:

I believe that it is difficult to kill an idea because ideas are invisible and contagious, and they move fast… I believe that repressing ideas spreads ideas.

These words accurately represent both sides of our political spectrum and this nation. We have always lived in an America where hatred, violence, and acidic rhetoric have existed in every state. Now all three have re-intensified in an extremely short period. With talks of building a wall and sending U.S. military into Mexico, and with the deportation of hundreds of Latinx people (many of them parents, being sent away from their children) in the span of a few days, that fear is present and growing. The discomfort is stepping out of the corner, and mutating into danger in the center of the room.

Under the new presidential administration, the voices necessary for retaliating against Trump’s discriminatory policies face a greater risk of being permanently silenced. There have been efforts to provide informational support for individuals who qualify for detainment and deportation, such as know-your-rights trainings to inform people about procedures ICE officers are legally required to follow, and precautions that can be taken to obstruct home raids. Nevertheless, there is much more that can be provided to prepare for an increase in immigration checks and potential defunding of sanctuary cities. As these policies take effect in our communities, Trump and his selected officials continue to present ignorance, inexperience, and malice as morally just opinions on Twitter and through their interviews peppered with lies, or as they call them, alternative facts.

Photo by Julia Rice

Photo by Julia Rice

This is where the books come in.

As a second generation Mexican-American, and a woman who has been raised in a household with two generations who came before me, I am fully aware that many will attempt to turn my own words against me. Others will claim them as false, but that does not deter me from writing for my community in the slightest. I have been taught to never be ashamed of where I come from, to never forget it, and to always give back to it. I have lived and witnessed firsthand the issues that come from cultural and generational differences that exist between Mexico and the U.S. And I have also seen the difficulties that others face on both sides in terms of safety and immigration. And as a writer, I see that there must be a reintroduction of the core-term “literature” in order to offer a concrete starting point for its use.

Literature, if written effectively, is the spreading of human ideas, whether they be novels, poems, short stories, spoken word, essays, or sonnets written on bathroom stalls. It forces us to share and experience the point of view of others for a few pages, and then think about how to improve communities—even when running away on flying pirate ships.

No matter which political stance one upholds, reading everything is critical, and not just words that support personal views, but oppositional works as well. For a brief moment, there must be an attempt to understand and examine others’ opinions to accurately determine their moral standings.

At first I hoped that the president would do just that. He had been given a chance to further improve this country, and in just a matter of days, he chose to further privilege the few and push down the marginalized without hesitation. It is clear there will be no empathy in Trump’s presidency. It is clear that he will not read much more than a few bullet points in a page. With this in mind, it is not him who should be relied on to read more—it’s us as a nation in need of understanding.