Maybe it’s because I’m a writer and words are important to me, powerful to me. Just a few moments ago, I heard a poem on the radio, Puttanesca by Michael Heffernan. The words that caught my ears were simple — “a street walker’s sweat.”
Words like that stun me with their beauty that comes from their vividness. They encourage me. They make me want to do better, be better. Not just a better writer, but a better person … someone who is worthy of such poetry.
When I was a student at Baylor University, I remember learning the meaning of a specific New Testament Bible verse, which unfortunately I can’t find right now, though it’s in something like Galatians or Ephesians. But that verse, in its original language, said that we are God’s poetry.
I think about that verse and I think about how hard I work on my words for a book, how I write them, read them, rewrite them, rework them, leave them alone, polish them, and try to perfect them over and over again, each time with love, passion, and desire. And if I do that for my words, and if we’re God’s poetry, oh, my gosh, how He works, polishes, and loves us.
What I’m trying to say is that it’s the words that get to me. Specifically, it’s the name-calling words that get to me.
I hear it a lot in myself. I hear it a lot on TV. When I do, I wonder what kind of example we’re setting for our children — that it’s okay to spew hate-filled words just for the sake venting, for the chance to rage and get on TV, to start and have a career as a pundit or reality TV star. I hear it even more on radio. I remember I heard it on the radio the morning after the Fort Hood shooting, as I was driving down I-35, returning to Killeen and the hospital where the injured and dying had been taken.
Strangely enough, I didn’t hear it from the doctors and nurses who frantically worked to save lives. I saw exhausted smiles of pride over the lives they had saved. And I didn’t hear it from the victims who lived to tell their stories of that horrible day. I heard gratitude.
But on the radio, from people who were miles from the blood and the death, I heard it. Perhaps it was understandable. That’s not the way it came across, though. It came across as trying to stir up people for ratings and advertising dollars.
What really gets to me, though, is the every day name-calling. I’m not talking name-calling against people like Major Nidal Malik Hassan, the Fort Hood shooter. I’m talking about name-calling that’s screamed and shouted under the guise of freedom of speech in the name of trying to save our nation from … whichever side they think is wrong and they’re right. I’m talking name-calling and hate in the name of superiority, name-calling and hate in the name of righteousness, name-calling and hate out of fear.
Do not fear, for I am with you. I will bless you …
I read it a lot on newspaper websites, where people can anonymously vent their anger, rage, insanity, and hate. And I read it a lot on Facebook. I think that’s where it gets to me the most — reading name-calling from my friends.
All I know is that it makes me lose respect for those I once admired, just like I lose respect for myself when I do it. I don’t want to lose respect for them … or for me. I know they are smart people. I know I’m smart. I know they are kind, giving, and gracious people in the majority of their lives. I’d like to think I’m kind, giving and gracious in the majority of my life. But, when it comes to politics, we become the very essence of what we’re accusing the other side of being.
I guess for that very reason I can’t give up. Nor can I spew back. After all, I’m God’s poetry — written, read, rewritten, reworked, trying to get perfected.
* I wrote this last March and revamped it and rewrote it in May. I don’t think I ever had any intention of ever posting it. And maybe I shouldn’t be posting it now because it may be too similar to I Don’t Know Where to Start. Yet that very blog post, I Don’t Know Where to Start — specifically some of the comments posted here — is what motivated me to go ahead and publish this. Forgive me if you find it redundant.