Law in Contemporary Society
Dear you,

I am not sure why I am writing to you yet.

I wrote this essay on equality, but you were always in the background of my mind, tucked away on the corner shelf. Not just tucked away, but locked away, in a solid, heavy box that was gathering dust.

I was not really writing about the equality of humanity, no, that would be too vast and incomprehensible and frankly arrogant of me to think I would be able to explain what has incited centuries of war and pain and suffering in 1000 words.

I should know; my grandparents are North Korean. I grew up on stories of hunger and loss. The only son shoved onto a refugee boat while his parents and sisters remain ashore, the smell of death creeping ever closer as he drifts away.

So really, I was writing about you. Writing around you. Wanting to write about you, but hesitating to open the box. So I decided to approach it detached, as if I had no stake in the matter, no part in the system.

Forgive me, I was writing about my own guilt and shame of having advanced so far in life due to the stroke of sheer dumb luck, and how unworthy and undeserving I felt in light of how good and kind and noble you were as a child. Selfish to the very end. Didn’t even give you space on the page.

Do you remember, that time I got my first American Barbie? How we marveled at her bright blue eyes and golden hair spun out of sunshine—how we caressed her oh so gently as we carefully washed and braided her hair? Do you remember how we would sneak into the mosque and catch a glimpse of that young boy you fancied? Or how you taught me where to find crickets?

And despite my mother’s firm protests, I would kick off my shoes as soon as I saw you, and we would run through the rice fields and empty lots barefoot together and be princesses and monsters and mothers all at once.

You held me when my pug went missing. Your older brother laughed and said the thief probably already grilled him as sate, and you yelled at him so I wouldn’t have to. You don’t even like dogs.

I miss the afternoons we spent roaming the streets in search of the wandering putu merchant, worn out rupiahs clenched in our small hands. Sometimes, I imagine the high pitched whistle of his cart late at night. But I am no longer in Salatiga, and putu merchants do not wander the streets of Manhattan at night. Or ever.

I remember how you stopped me on the street a day before I left Indonesia. I remember your kind eyes, stagnant but bright pools—and I remember your swollen ankles. Even as your hand was protectively placed over your swollen belly, you asked me about college plans.

And all I could see was your small home behind you; thatched roof, open door revealing mud floors and haphazardly placed red plastic furniture. When what I really should have seen was just you.

The letter beginning with “Congratulations…” from the American college I so desperately wanted to go to had already changed me, and it scares me to think I wanted to change.

And when I came back to visit, I wanted to tell you about my enchanting classmates—sons and daughters of diplomats, doctors, lawyers or entrepreneurs. All walking, talking, and eating with an unfamiliar air of courage and confidence that I did not yet have. As if they belonged there. Deserved to be there.

I wanted to tell you about the library, more books than we had ever seen in our entire lives. Of the lights that really seemed to burn forever. Of the snow.

I made it all the way to your street. That corner with those horrendous bright blue pillars with the 45 of the red 1945 fading away…

You were always the braver and kinder soul of the two of us. You never lamented that I was getting an education and you weren’t, never expressed displeasure about the fact that the Barbie would always come home with me at the end of the day…

Even some emotions, it seems, are reserved for the privileged.

I wish I could say the inequality keeps me up at night, but most nights I sleep astonishingly well. I wish I could say I think of you often, but really, I try as best I can to not think of you. The box has remained unmoved for years.

I am not ready to know myself yet. But here I am. Writing is a selfish activity after all.

I hope you can forgive me.

It is late.

A familiar silence has settled into the corners of the office. The walls are so white, and everything is so angled, in place, in order, according to some cold and unspoken system. This chair I’m sitting on could buy several of those Barbies.

I slip off my shoes and walk around barefoot, feeling the soft carpet through my thin black stockings, homesick for the rich mud that would rise through my toes.

I will never stop mourning your potential. And I will never stop mourning the brokenness. It is right to mourn. It is important. Every time I roam the offices barefoot, I will think of you.

There, some of the dust has been brushed away. The box has moved closer to the edge of the shelf. I have gotten rid of the lock. And now I see the beauty of it. Like when there’s a small, brilliant jewel embedded in a large lump of coal. The flash of gold in a pile of gravel.

With all my love,



Webs Webs

r5 - 02 Jun 2017 - 02:22:48 - KateJLee
This site is powered by the TWiki collaboration platform.
All material on this collaboration platform is the property of the contributing authors.
All material marked as authored by Eben Moglen is available under the license terms CC-BY-SA version 4.
Syndicate this site RSSATOM