This is from one of my students:
Learning to See
Everybody has a fascination. The next step in that fascination would be to fall in love with it. The step from fascination to love is an unusual step and I believe it happens for many people in many different ways. When you say, “I love you” for the very first time; or when you realize that what you feel for someone is too great to hold inside. I could write this essay about those whom I love, my mom, my dad, and my girlfriend. Or I could look inside myself and describe another deep love that I hold. My fascination for this has become a deep love and I know this because it has passed a point in which I could describe my feelings in words. I know that I love something or someone when the feelings inside make my literal descriptions useless, when words cannot be placed on how that person or being makes me feel.
I did not know what I wanted to write about, to be honest. I started to think about everyone that I could, as I mentioned earlier, but none of them seemed to fit. Yes I love them all but the reason I now know what to write about is because I saw them flying in the darkness the other night, in all their beauty and misunderstanding. Coming home from class I could hear them flying, I could hear them speaking and finding their way around at night, and I realized, I am in deeply in love with Bats. Before I begin, however, I must explain who I am and where I find myself as in relation to these bats that I love so sincerely.
I am twenty years old. I am white. I am in the “middle” class. I am a college student. I am, however, not a robot. Nor am I a drone to walk around and mindlessly follow our society’s system. The system that tells me I am in the middle class even though it does not exist. The system that privileges those who are white and questions those who are not. The system that does not care about anything other than what their paycheck will earn them. Before this class I would look at my life and define myself by the facts that are apparent in it. It is obvious that I am white, obvious that I am not an elite, and mostly obvious that I am around my twenties. How does this tell a person who I am, how does it tell them what history I hold? It does not do any of that. It gives you my face value, and I am not one to judge upon first sight. How can I relate to these bats that I hold so dear to me, what part of out histories cross. Will the cross be positive or negative? I must look into this to see how we are related.
The history of white people includes mass murders of humans and nonhumans, it includes over-use of resources, and it includes an overall indifference on whether or not Mother Nature is harmed in this process. This is where my path crosses with the bat; this is why, when I looked up in the night sky and saw the bats, I wanted to apologize. Bats live in forests and in caves. They are becoming extinct because humans are destroying their habitat, many bats live in the trees that we are cutting down and many of them live in caves that we are blowing up for minerals. We are disturbing their hibernation, and this can kill them before winter passes. Many people would look at this fact and not care at all, why should they? They hear the word “bat” and see those hideous, hairless, blood sucking, rabies-carrying monsters. This fills me with grief and anger for the misunderstanding between bats and humans. Bats have helped us every single second of our lives. They eat thousands of bugs every hour that could transmit disease to us; they pollinate trees that only bloom at night (such as bananas, avocados, dates, figs, peaches, mangoes, and cashews). They clean themselves quite often and rarely carry what we fear, rabies. They are endangered because all we hear is that they will get stuck in your hair and suck your blood. We are destroying the rainforests, a big food supply for them. We need to be careful because they give birth to one offspring per year since they have such a long life (about 40 years). They are dying faster than they are reproducing, this will lead to an eventual extinction.
I have found a connecting point between us. Like many other animals that humans have a connection with, it is a connection of destruction from us to them, and life from them to us. We are blind, as a nation. There are some of us who are able to see, I hope I can be a part of them soon, but there are many of us who cannot. It is funny to me that we say these bats are blind. It is funny because many of them have extremely acute vision. They not only have vision but they have something called echolocation, which humans cannot hear. This is a form of sight; to me being able to have sight is not only doing so through your eyes. Having sight is having an image of what is around you. Bats have the physical image through their eyes, but they also have an image through the sound waves that they receive from echolocation. How can a nation call these creatures “blind?” If we cannot see such a simple fact that bats are able to see, then yes, we as a nation are the true blind. We have a perception of what the world is around us, yet we cannot see it. We do not know what the real world is, we see what we want to see and we use what we want to use. America is blind, it is ironic that in this essay the bat can see and America cannot.
I can continue on with what I wanted to say. I want to explain why I fell deeply in love with a bat and it has to do with their “blindness.” The sun had set and my class had just let me out. I was walking home when I heard a screeching above my head. I looked up and to my surprise I saw three flying creatures in the night sky. At first I could not place them, I did not know what they were. I continued to watch them and to listen to them and I saw that they were bats. At the time I had thought bats were blind as well, I believed that they could get around by means of sonar and that was it. I fell in love with them because of the fact that everybody (and by everybody I mean a broad majority of people) on the ground hates them, yet they continue to treat us kindly. I fell in love with them because even though they are “blind” they listen. They listen to what is around them and if thy do not do this they will miss a meal. America needs to take on some aspects of the bat, we are blind and we do not listen, we are surely on a path to extinction. If the bat did not listen, the bat would starve. I hope America takes this into consideration; if we do not listen, we will die.
If we do not take into consideration what the bat can teach us, if we cannot look beyond the face value of objects, we are sure to end. The bat is told it is ugly, the bat is told it cannot see, and the bat is told it cannot live in the trees or caves because they are too important to us. The bat, in return, eats bugs that would kill us, gives us fruit by spreading the seeds, and is even now helping stroke victims because their saliva acts as a blood thinner. Why do they give us such great rewards? Why do they treat us so well if we are killing them? They are doing this because nature cares about its environment and it cares about those who inhabit it. America needs to understand that the bat is a marvelous creature and that we should all thank them every time we see them.
I am writing to tell this bat that I have learned all of the wrong doings of the American people. I have learned about the corrupt people who are controlling the deforestation and about the people who do not care whether you live or die. I am writing this to apologize to you for all of the people who fear you for no reason. I learned that America would do whatever it wants for whatever it wants at the cost of anybody of anything. I am telling you that I have learned that corporations have become the strongest part of our nation and that nature has been pushed back in our priority list. I learned that in order for change to happen, action must be taken. I am writing to the bat to show Americans what we are doing to you. Let us know how you feel. Perhaps Jensen was right, I hope he is not though. He says that the animals are going extinct so that they are no longer supporting our way of life. I understand, bat, if you leave our life. You treat us so well and we treat you as if you were nothing. I hope we can change how we are related to each other and live peacefully and happy. I would hate to see you leave.
I am writing this letter to apologize to, and to thank, the bat. I apologize because I do not wish to cause you harm; yet my history tells me that I have done so and that I continue to do so. I want to apologize because I fell under the majority and thought you to be a hideous beast. I want to apologize to you because as a white man did not understand what wrongs I was causing by supporting a corrupt system. I want to apologize about my white privilege; I want to apologize about everything that I have ever done that has caused you to be harmed without my knowledge. I want to apologize, lastly, for valuing money over your life. We destroy your home and your food so we can have money in our wallets and our purses. We destroy everything you need so we can have everything we do not -- luxuries. I as a white person am “entitled” to anything I want and can get it in whatever means possible, even if it comes at the exploitation of my mother, of other individuals of color, and of the animals and plants that inhabit this earth. I am sorry that that previous statement is the norm of America.
I want to thank the bat for everything it has done. I want to thank the bat for providing us with wonderful fruits that keep us healthy. I want to thank the bat for eating the bugs that carry disease and destroy crops. I want to thank the bat for not treating us the way we treat it. Most importantly of all, I want to thank the bat for making me understand. Had I not seen that bat, had I not heard it, I would not have heard its story. The screeching and the fluttering of its wings let me in, for a moment, to his or her life. I was able to see and understand the bat. I want to thank the bat for letting me understand that I need to be able to see without physically seeing. Had I not seen the bat I would not have taken time to learn more about it. This bat taught me that I need not wait until I see to learn; rather, I should learn to see. And so I leave this class with a final thought that describes all I have learned about America in this class. A bat, considered blind by our nation, taught an American how to see.