On the drive up the hill for family dinner, Violet and I had a mock argument, one set several years hence, in her teenage future. We comedically role-played her outrage at being discussed in these pages and my likely ill-advised reaction to her ensuing tantrum. We giggled heartily, although our prognostication will probably prove quite accurate; our feelings in that coming moment may not be as buoyant. Although possessed of a father’s fear at her physical and emotional development, a reticence exacerbated by my own emotive nature, I am also daily amazed by the perspective that she is gaining on the world. It was her declaration on the descent home that struck me dumb and teary.
As is important for a native to the Valley, Violet has been made aware that our lifestyle is both unique and fortunate, such recognition imprinted from my frequent lectures and from her travel experiences. A girl with deep empathy, the suffering of others resonates and reverberates through her avian bones, to the point that I worry that she is internalizing too much, carrying a weight that is not hers to bear. As I am fond of saying, it is my job to fret and hers to merely enjoy all that this life, her childhood has to offer.
The eyeroll that Violet is perfecting is put to full effect on me in those moments, a signal of her refusal to let me condescend, to pander to her. She already clocks her obligation, as a citizen of the world, to imprint her will and her kindness and her intelligence upon it. She has a child’s intolerance for inequality, but it is selfless, not borne of self-interest. Surrounded as she has been by those ensconced in the trappings of wealth, Violet also has intimate experience with those plagued by deprivation.
Her frustration at this divide is beginning to boil over. In the car on the ride down, as we discussed the astronomical prices of local real estate, particularly those manses selling for the tens of millions of dollars, she wondered pointedly at the point of such financial extremes. Then she asked the question that has haunted humans for millennia: why do some people have so much when some have so little? Violet’s disgust was palpable as she pursued this line of thinking, lamenting the sheer lunacy of some luxuriating poolside with butlers while others starve in their hovels.
She identified the problem and then, with the optimism and certainty that only a child can muster, she postulated the only obvious solution. Socialism and communism are loaded terms, complicated by history and the fallibility of humankind, but they are sociopolitical systems whose basic premises are rooted in the care that Violet wants to deliver to her fellow people. She does not know them by name, but she intuits their philosophy. Violet understands the impetus to provide enough for everyone, so that nobody goes homeless or hungry, so that people retain their decency and basic happiness instead of relentlessly pursuing ducats simply to survive.
Violet’s direct address of the fundamental human dilemma was impressive in its own theoretical right, but what really floored me is that she is a girl not merely of intellect and passion, but of action and responsibility. She proclaimed, in a tone that harbored no doubt, that she was going to dedicate her life to ensuring that people were treated equally, no matter who they were or where they lived. And, in addition to that basic, self-evident outcome, she also is making it her mission to find an alternative to the pursuit of money for its own sake. In a sign that she may actually be listening to me, she confirmed in her car ride soliloquy that the only important things in life are to be safe and to have fun and treat people with kindness. I am paraphrasing here, but only mildly. I wish I had the verbatim recording of her statement, but I was too stunned to write it down contemporaneously.
Her goals are heady, but are only absurd if one lacks belief, if one has become jaded enough to believe that real change is not possible. As I told her, after I collected my wits, it is her purview to study and otherwise equip herself with the tools necessary to achieve her lofty objectives. And, now I have the enviable and daunting task of supporting her on that journey. We will have a ton of laughs, and probably a similar amount of strife, but it will be the time of my life.