I first noticed your tag, small and innocuously scrawled on an electrical box on Blake Avenue. And then, during a morning walk in April, I was assaulted by the ugly name, this time large and brown on a Langford Park Rec Center wall. More ugliness followed: large brown spray-painted frowny-faces with X’s for eyes and yet more SLOG everywhere around Langford Park: on trash cans, on walls, even rewritten over areas the city staff had already tried to scrub off or paint over.
Later still, there was SLOG on hydrants, rocks, even the back of a building on Como Avenue. And I wonder, why?
Perhaps you feel invisible, that SLOGing everything in sight is a way for you to tell the world you exist. Unfortunately, you are still invisible. All people know of you is that you have no face, you are disrespectful, and you are too selfish to understand the community at large when you vandalize it. Instead, becoming visible involves being a force for good in your family, community, and larger society.
Work during daylight with people to accomplish good things. You will have a face (and a real name), people will know it, and people will remember you. (But they will not remember SLOG who only made their world uglier, who will get painted over, who will grow up, who will—hopefully—move on to better things.)
Perhaps you want to rebel. You have been mistreated, life has been hard, you do not get what you want from the people you want those things from. But becoming a vandal is not an effective way to right the wrongs in your life, either. After all, is Langford Park the person that wronged you? Instead, you need to become savvy about dealing with yourself, people, institutions and governments to work through appropriate channels to get what you need and to make the changes you want to see.
Perhaps you do not actually want to vandalize but you are part of a group that does such things. We all want and need to belong. We all want and need meaning for our lives. But spewing ugliness, committing crimes and seeking acceptance from people who do these things is not a good choice for creating meaningful community. Instead, get out while you can, find different friends, curl up with some good books in a library for the next two years if that’s what it takes.
You and your life and your future are more important than the group you are trying to be a part of. We are all susceptible to the influence of others, so please, SLOG, choose your influences more carefully. Things are not always great in our personal, social, work, and civic life.
At times, should we be upset, restless, inspired to provoke change? Yes. But vandalizing public structures in a neighborhood of kind-hearted, intelligent and good citizens is not the way to fight back. These are the very people who would welcome you into their homes and embrace you in your efforts to make legal, helpful change in the world.
This neighborhood is not your enemy. Instead, we should use our struggle for identity, the restlessness, insecurity or confusion, as motivation to be better, not worse, versions of ourselves.
The world needs no more hate, no more bullying or fear or inconsideration for the well-being of others, no more advantage-taking, and, SLOG, no more ugliness. The world needs people who are empathetic, compassionate and willing to work for good and change.
So maybe after taking leave from friends who would encourage you to vandalize, perhaps you can do some soul-searching. Find the real person behind SLOG and bring him or her into being authentically visible.
Start with yourself: What is it that you are hurt by, angry about, confused about? Work through these things and talk to those you truly need to communicate with. Then move to others: How can you be a force for good in the world?
Perhaps you will advocate for others in situations like yours or for those who are less fortunate. Perhaps you can volunteer to help save rescued animals. Perhaps you will become an art therapist who helps children work through trauma. Perhaps you will become a city or state representative who works for change in governments.
SLOG, there are so many ways to be visible, to be useful, to be needed and to be remembered in our society. You must believe in yourself, make good choices and stick to them (which is not always easy).
I hope you find your way because you likely have great potential. Let SLOG be painted over once and for all, and let your real name and self emerge—as a force for good.
Marie Williams, St. Anthony Park