By Wes Jarrell
Of all the maligned and pitiable creatures on this earth, few are louder -- and less heard -- than teenagers.
I see it all very clearly now. Coaches and directors are focused on how you make them look; teachers just want to get through the period; parents don't want to lose their babies and all your peers are so wrapped up in who they are, who they think they are and who they want to be that nobody really sees that very important things are happening -- not to them, but to you! It's exasperating.
My friends, if I have turned your gaze toward the swirling heart of your existential crisis, gather courage before it's too late and know that salvation rests in your very hands, right before your eyes. That's right: Flipside. Here -- here, my friends, in this very place -- you are heard.
I don't remember the subject matter of a single article I wrote for Flipside. To tell the truth, I hardly remember writing for it at all. But I know I did because that brief period in my history was such an important bridge from one stage to the next.
It was a time when two key things happened. First, I became politically aware. Second, I learned my writing has power over others.
But saying that I became "politically aware" misses some nuance. What I became aware of was that I detested conservative politics, particularly the right-wing moral politics that characterized the (so called) 1990s culture war.
It would perhaps be erroneous, as well, to call my writings "commentary" or "articles." In my mind these were full-blown screeds: glorious, visceral polemics against the conservative moral order. (For the record, moralizing is not necessarily the most effective way to bash an opposing moral worldview, but there can be a certain satisfaction in the irony of it.)
Yelling loudly, as usual, I expected to be ignored, as usual. But this time was different: my words were actually read.
In fact, my words managed to so enflame my readers that some took to their computers and did some writing of their own! How invigorating to express oneself seriously and actually be taken seriously in return.
Today we can debate things like whether my writing galvanized others because it was insightful or because it was caustic, but back then the real impact of my Flipside experience was to show me that what I write -- and think -- actually can matter. That kind of confidence can generate the momentum of a landslide, one that in my case carried me far past the reach of the little noise that caused it.
So write, my friends. Know that here you are heard.
Wes Jarrell graduated from Scott High School in 2000. He is a lawyer and yoga teacher in Charleston.