Clete Wetli, Contributor
I only know you from the picture I saw on the news. The only things I’ve learned about you are from the tearful words of your friends and co-workers and your family who feel the indescribable pain of knowing they’ll never hear your laugh again or see you passionately standing up for your beliefs.
On social media you put up a quote, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.”
I promise you, Heather, I’ve been paying attention for a very long time. Like you, I am also outraged and I know you would agree that outrage is meaningless without taking purposeful action.
You took action and your life has been magnified.
Like you, I’ve tried to make a positive difference. Sometimes, it’s a thing I do to help someone that nobody else knows about and sometimes I’m that guy at a protest holding a sign. Sometimes, I write and I lay awake wondering if anyone was ever moved by words.
I’m a bit older than you and, I must confess that there are also times when I feel like all the words I write, all the speeches I give, all the protests, all the righteous conflict, and all the unseen work is un-noticed, unappreciated, or ineffectual. I vacillate between outrage-fueled activity and weary, dutiful resistance.
There are times when my light flickers and dims.
But, Heather, somehow your light has magnified mine in the most powerful way. I think that’s some secret I stumbled upon about how all this mystical stuff works. I learned about you and mourned your passing and watched your memorial and I became stronger. I told my young daughter about you and explained to her the deep and historic significance of the few sparse things I knew about your life. She’s a lot like you because she cares passionately and stands firmly for her beliefs.
Her young eyes are the twin of yours. Eyes that notice oppression, eyes that spark in the face of cruelty, that deeply feel the pain of others, eyes that strongly focus with a steadfast determination to see the promise of justice.
Heather, I’m just a middle-aged Jewish guy that lives in Alabama and endures the constant scorn of self-righteous evangelicals who mock my love for social justice and the promise of equality actualized. Yet, I’m writing this because I know somehow that you’re listening and I think it’s important for you to know how many lives you have affected. I want you to know that your light is magnified and it that will continue to grow brighter and stronger.
I heard those sickening chants and I saw the ignorant hatred. I saw their ridiculous Tiki torches and I saw them with their shields and assault rifles. I watched you stand up to their senseless bigotry and I saw the terrifying moment that your soul left this earth. Heather, you need to know that I and millions of others paid attention.
Your mother said at your memorial, “They tried to kill my child to shut her up. Well, they just magnified her.” Heather, I can tell you that you have magnified my resolve to keep fighting and I hope that I can magnify your legacy by telling others about your courage, your strength, and your deep commitment to helping your fellow man.
Heather, I just want you to know that standing up was worth it and that I won’t forget. I’ll teach my children and they will take your light and it will be magnified again and again and again.
Heather Heyer, I never knew you, but I promise that I will magnify you and everything you stood for.