Contrary to popular belief, dragons exist. They are all around us, but to see them we have to acknowledge our part in keeping them alive and healthy. We feed them with ignorance, lassitude, apathy. We nurture them in our refusal to believe that we, too, have a part of them in us. Through inaction, we invite them to spread suffering, to gnaw on the bones of new prey each day. Yes—we might even watch them rampage and then turn away.

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Stephen Burt, Something Is Happening Here . . ., ink on legal pad, 8.5 x 11 in., 2021.

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Stephen Burt, Wielding Death for Profit . . ., ink on legal pad, 8.5 x 11 in., 2021.

It is painful taking the role of St. George. One invites trouble and danger when they report the sighting of dragons. They might even be thought unhinged. It is dangerous to buck the systems that have been put in place for the breeding of dragons. Dragons are powerful. They are not afraid because they are the warriors for injustice, the purveyors of pain, the cultivators of chaos.

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The one thing that repels dragons is truth. They can be vanquished by compassion and kindness; they recoil at generosity, and love may transform the worst of them into potent allies for justice. Do we desire obliteration or salvation? It really is now or never. The dragons are howling at the ramparts of everything we hold dear. It will take the strength of many to do the work that must be done. It will require a commitment to honesty and equality, education, and frugality. It will require selflessness and love.

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These dragons have been plaguing me—I had hoped that they would go away, that somebody else would do the hard work, take on the very real danger–but however much I struggled to ignore them, they were there in every headline and everyday life, even at the movies. I began to draw them, to try and visualize their faces. I was surprised that they didn’t look like the dragons of my childhood. Dragons assume the strangest forms. I realized they depend on our love of comfort and leisure. Some even looked innocent until I peeled back the layers and realized that much of what I have is built on the backs of dragons.

Take a look around. You’ll see them too.

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Stephen Burt, More for Less and Less for More . . ., ink on legal pad, 8.5 x 11 in., 2021.

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Stephen Burt, It’s Late . . ., ink on legal pad, 8.5 x 11 in., 2021.


Image at top: Stephen Burt, I See What I Like . . ., ink on legal pad, 8.5 x 11 in., 2021.