Open Letter to a Nephew

Dear W.P.,

I received a letter, dated August 28th, from your siblings and cousins, which I opened with the high hopes of reading about the flourishing, in my absence, of the old homestead. Instead, I was subjected to a long list of complaints – and fully justified –about a certain spoiled brat I had allowed myself to believe was gone for good. How has it come to this?

When you and your sister first came to me, seeking asylum from the trouble your adolescence had brewed between you and your parents, I welcomed you with open arms, adopting you as my own. For the most part, my biological son also welcomed you warmly, but rare are those instances when new living arrangements arrive without incident; you both have your scars from that period of adjustment. Still, however much guilt you each bear for the way things turned out, your measure is by far the lion’s share. My mansion has many rooms, each full with heaps of wealth abounding. Yet, you bullied your way into his space and stole away his birthright through lies and advantages taken. Furthermore, you insisted that this native child of my household follow your own example (And a poor one at that!) or find other pastures in which to play. At first glance, things seem to have settled down and given the circumstances, he has done alright for himself. However, this comes down mainly to a fierce independence of spirit that keeps him walking proudly despite the stones you cast at his feet. I am left to wonder if you have looked – really looked – at the room into which you’ve sent him, the sad space into which he has retreated.

With the value of hindsight, I cannot say that I am surprised by your behavior. When you insisted on bringing your African cousin under our roof – with the claim that he too would fare better in our new household – I foolishly complied. I did not then see that you had given no thought to his wishes and sought only to take on the role of oppressor. As you did to him, you also did to your sister and for all your late, superficial efforts, you treat neither as your equal. Yet, their every cry for a fair portion from my manor’s table of plenty is answered with dry crumbs and sneering derision.

Most of your other cousins, having sought my protection and guidance according to their own desires, have managed to prosper here. Again, this has occurred with little help from you and if given the opportunity, you would place any of them under your thumb. That old book you so prize, though chock full of questionable tales of morality, is not completely devoid of wisdom. It bears a passage, which reads, “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” In other words, the world is difficult enough without your adding to it. And before you counter with that dim understanding of Darwin’s genius you so insistently champion with your right hand while condemning with your left, you would do well to remember that Nature, while rife with competition, is no less ripe with cooperation.

I want so much for all my children to prosper, but I can do little for them now; my debilitating illness has long since left me no recourse but to turn the management of the household over to you. You have been afforded years of prosperity and promise. Why, then, does your debt of injustice to your cousins and siblings yet remain unpaid? I tire at your incessant whining; It is high time that you grew up! Compared to many, you are wealthy beyond measure. It is in gratitude that you are found woefully destitute. You know full well that the blessings I have imparted to you were intended to be given freely and equally to all my children, native born and otherwise. Indeed, they are only what should rightfully be provided to everyone everywhere. In claiming these rights only for yourself and holding up your ambition, avarice, and unearned – indeed, unearnable – privilege as the guarantor of these liberties, you make yourself less than worthy of the least of them.

As I lie here, in this bed of long convalescence, I cannot help but wonder if I have failed you, if I have somehow neglected to provide you with the necessary knowledge and means to flower fully into adulthood. The mythical Chief of the Waponi Wu once remarked, “We are the children of children and we live as we are shown.” He was not wrong, but surely not all of my many pronouncements and suggestions – and their carefully considered amendments – are inadequate or contrary to the task I have set before you. Still, I am reminded that only half the power of any good lesson or counseling resides in its truth. The remainder rests in the sturdiness and balance of the shoulders carrying the burden of responsibility that experience and advisement convey.

Your shoulders are strong, steady, and not yet so old that they should ache and bend beneath the strain. How long will you continue to shrug off the weight of progress instead of adjusting it so that it sits more comfortably? Both actions may require a momentary slowing or even interruption of step, but only the latter permits and promotes growth. If you persist in trading your responsibilities for selfish vanities, you will, carrying nothing on the journey, have nothing at the journey’s end – only a crumbling manor, crowded with material and empty of spirit.

I still have high hopes for you, My Boy.

Yours with love and encouragement,

Uncle Sam

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About Buck O'Roon

Buck O'Roon [buhk oh-roon] –noun 1. a southerner of skeptical stripe, recognizable by his deeply furrowed brow and increasing lack of patience for institutionalized horse manure 2. curmudgeon-in-training
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