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San Antonio, Texas

May 6, 2010


Dear Friends,

I had thought I would be able to update you on my recent stint as Grand Marshall of the Poteet Strawberry Festival, or the panel Macondo gave at the Association of Writers and Writing Program (AWP) Conference in Denver, or my visit to Lubbock thanks to the students of Unidos Por Un Mismo Idioma. Instead, I have to report about the great sadness of losing my friend the Poet Ai and of recent Arizona legislation aimed at Mexican immigrants.

I was in Tucson when I heard the news about Ai's death. I put a white flower in the desert and said my thanks to that woman whose poetry spoke through voices, through incidents not mentioned in history books. Did she realize how valuable she was to us?

And then the recent Arizona legislation brought on by Mexiphobia. I don't know what to think about these times except to recommend everyone read Christopher Isherwood's Berlin Stories.

I read now about Arizona rules that teachers who teach English with a Spanish accent being removed from their jobs. Will the teachers who teach Spanish with an English accent be removed too? In the words of the Wicked Witch of the West, "What a world, what a world!"

A wonderful outcome of the disastrous new Arizona legislation is the community organizing and the people speaking out and up. But I'm afraid things will get worse before they get better.

I am still trying to find a way to serve those most maligned, the ones least involved in this discussion of immigrant reform: the immigrants themselves. I feel angry about the situation, and at first I thought, I'm disgusted with all politicians right now. Don't talk to me about the Democrats and don't talk to me about the Republicans. I don't want to be invited yet again to the White House to sit with a Mexican president. I'm sick of them all.

But after some sleep, I realized it's best, as Thich Nhat Hanh says, to write a love letter to our politicians. This would make change. If I look deeply at where these people -- politicians and voters -- are coming from, maybe I can understand their fear, and maybe if I can get out of the way, I can write something that will make them understand our fears as well.

What can we do in this time of such sadness? I think we should not despair or we are defeated. I think each of us must seek solitude and meditate as to how we can work to make change in these times. How can we allow those who are disparaged to tell their stories? How can we remind those most afraid that the U.S. is responsible for the narcos because of our insatiable drug consumption? How can we look deeply at the situation at the border and take responsibility for the displaced Mexican poor thanks to NAFTA? How can we remind America that we sell the very arms to the narcos?

I wish I had happier news today, but this is the world as we find it now. I will continue to believe, as the Buddha reminds us, that if we can change ourselves we can change the world.