By Senator Lena C. Taylor
The Problem of Undiversified, Inequitable and Exclusionary Policies
In 1940, George Orwell wrote: “Almost certainly we are moving into an age of totalitarian dictatorships – an age in which freedom of thought will be at first a deadly sin and later on a meaningless abstraction. The autonomous individual is going to be stamped out of existence.” Well, it was kind of Orwell.
Eric Arthur Blair, used the pen-name George Orwell. When he wrote his highly successful Nineteen Eighty-Four, Orwell was dying from Tuberculosis. He finished, what would be his final book, in 1948, but the novel hangs in the very 2023 air we breathe.
The premise of the book centers on a dystopian society – an imagined society where there is great suffering – at the hands of totalitarianism. The book has been used to issue a clarion call about the pitfalls of governmental systems that are dictatorial and functions on the subservience of its citizens. It is in this novel that we first learn the terms Big Brother and the Thought police.
Nineteen Eighty-Four contained a number of jewels that reflected the ease that citizens relinquished their freedom and were motivated to strip others of their history, culture, and independence of thought. In the book, Orwell said “Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book has been re-written, every picture has been re-painted, every statue and street and building has been re-named, every date has been altered. And that process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.”
If that passage feels eerily relevant, that’s because it is! Across this nation, the effort is underway to minimize and control diversity of thought, lifestyles, and individuals. It is that belief that gripped me when I learned of the banning of a poem by Amanda Gorman. Serving as the youngest National Youth Poet, at the age of 17, written for and recited at President Joe Biden’s inauguration, her poem “The Hill We Climb” received critical acclaim. And yet a South Florida elementary parent was able to get it banned at her child’s school because she felt Gorman’s words were hateful.
A portion of the poem reads: And so we lift our gaze, not to what stands between us, but what stands before us. We close the divide because we know to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside. We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another. We seek harm to none and harmony for all. Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true. That even as we grieved, we grew. That even as we hurt, we hoped. That even as we tired, we tried. That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious. Not because we will never again know defeat, but because we will never again sow division. Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid. If we’re to live up to our own time, then victory won’t lie in the blade, but in all the bridges we’ve made. That is the promise to glade, the hill we climb, if only we dare. It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit.
There is a problem alright, but it’s not with this poem. The problem lies with us, if we allow these policies to stand.