An Open Letter to Shannon Duvall


Here, our protagonist meets a road-weary traveler…

What’s up, sis?  I know I don’t normally communicate via public forum as I am doing now, but I trust that in just a little while, you’ll understand my meaning for doing so.

You see, the thing is, I’ve reached a point of crisis.  And while it has been my practice in the past to wait until you’re awake on the other side of the pond (should be about another two or three hours or so, by my counting) to dump my random-time-allotted heap of emotional baggage on the altar of Skype for us to both sort through, I’ve opted instead to bare my grievances to the general public in a means that feels natural to me.  That’s right, friends and family, this supposedly-grown man still runs to his big sister when he has a problem.

But unlike the usual existential scrapes with work, love and family that I usually need help fine-tooth-combing, I find myself in an oddly familiar state of dissatisfaction.  I am, yet again, embarrassed by my country.  And seeing as how you left the nest long ago, I’m sure that there’s a way for you to empathize, just as I am now realizing again my understanding for why you have yet to return permanently.

I shall now endeavor to summarize my metaphysical quandary.  I feel the non-ceasing state of willful ignorance and the lack of respect with which we treat one another in this country to be oppressive to the point of personal turmoil.  I feel like the one frog in the pot with the presence of mind to look around at the other frogs and say, “Isn’t it getting hot in here?”.  The pressure at times is enough to make me feel like crying, but I’m American… and a male… and not gay… and stereotypes exist because, well… sometimes, we ask for them, much to the disadvantage of our own psychological health.

th (8)
No, really..I’ve just got something in my eye.


So what to do?  See a psychiatrist?  Get some tax-allocated stress relief on that great social health care system that’s supposedly on it’s way?  I don’t work enough hours to get covered, and I don’t make enough money to pay for my own plan.  So what then?

Get involved in politics?  Maybe organize some public demonstrations that seem to be going so swimmingly these days in the States?  You mean on top of looking for new work to afford health coverage, trying afford to live in the supposed “Live Music Capital of the World”and also have time and money left over to put into my band (1 of 3 which can’t seem to go longer than a year without wanting to implode), fix my car (whose registration expired in January), take care of my pets (I actually stay on top of that pretty well.  They can’t feed themselves, after all), and keep a healthy and happy relationship with my loving girlfriend… Yeah, sure… How’s next Tuesday sound?

Or I could do what I usually do:  Drink.

You know what I’m talkin’ about?

Nothing screams “America!” much more than passively accepting defeat after defeat handed down by a faceless conglomerate of power and wealth in a haze of social media, unhealthy food and doing everything except pay for Cirrhosis’ cab fare to your front door.

As usual, sis, I’m not coming to you expecting immediate, concrete answers.  But for a long time I have actually considered myself to be a proud American.  A true patriot, I guess you could say:  someone who doesn’t shut out the outside world, but looks for opportunities in it to grow not at the expense of others; someone who accepts sacrifice and compromise without being a door mat; someone who is graceful in victory and defeat… i.e., just a decent human being.

I look around our circle of friends and I see that all the time.  And then I look around at the shit that’s being perpetrated by my government and economic system and I see social cannibalism.  It turns out that America’s reputation for being “The Land of Opportunity” is still alive and well in the context of hyena, vultures and other scavengers.

th (9)
Pictured: A hedge fund manager

And yet I know that there’s places where people are treated humanely… by law, no less!  Places where the population treat each other (generally speaking) with a modicum of respect and dignity.  And suddenly, I don’t want to be an American anymore.  I’m tired the of obligatory feelings of guilt and stupidity that gets stapled to the “privilege” of being born in the most powerful country in the world.

So I guess to wrap it all up, Shannon…  I get it now.  After all my asking and constant assurances that you would love it here in Austin, I get it.  And as much as it might pain me to say this, I feel like I have to tell you:  Don’t move back to the U.S.  I miss you like crazy, but aside from our loved ones, there’s really not much left to make it feel like home anymore.

For those of you who don’t know, my sister Shannon lives in Dublin, Ireland where she works as a subeditor and copywriter at BigOmedia, edits digital content for the Youbloom website and thrashes drums in a band called Native (couldn’t find a link, sorry!)


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