The recent election changed me. Like thousands of others, I had always felt I was doing my duty by speaking my mind (mostly on facebook and with friends) and by voting. Now I think of myself as a “baby activist.” I am full of admiration for those who have been calling, writing, and showing up all along to communicate with their representatives and hold them accountable, and now I am trying to do the same.
But fundamentally, I am a writer, and it is my response as a writer that (I hope) could be most valuable. I am just finishing up a novel on which I have worked for a very long time, and I find that the widening inequalities in our country have put a new idea into my head. I want to celebrate our “non-celebrities.” These are the people who will not appear on T.V. shows except perhaps for a few seconds, whose pay barely keeps them alive, and who do good in numberless ways. The people who first come to mind are the CNAs–Certified Nursing Assistants– who take care of our elderly in assisted living and nursing homes. Their jobs are very difficult and grossly underpaid, yet so many of them are remarkably patient, compassionate and effective. They do a lot of good, and yet, they are undervalued and, to many, they are invisible.
I don’t know yet in what form I would like to write about these people–fiction, non-fiction, or a combination of the two. And maybe this is one of those ideas that arise only to disappear. But it has that exciting, half-submerged feeling of an idea that won’t go away. A perspective in which so many people are so underestimated is an unbalanced perspective. I would like to add a little weight to the other side of the scale.