Spewed in anger, hatred and ignorance stomping by one’s side, words are curses that strafe the listener.
Written thoughtfully with justice guiding one hand, empathy the other, words are sacred and hallow the reader.
Sometimes it’s the same person raising both flags – and both fists. Think Mohandas Gandhi. Think Susan B. Anthony. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Hannah Arendt. Nelson Mandela. Mulala Yousafzai. Ai Weiwei. Oprah Winfrey. Abraham Lincoln. Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Winston Churchill. Marie Curie. Steve Biko. Aung San Suu Kyi. Edward R. Murrow. Ava DuVernay. Bill Gates. Emma Lazarus. Larry Burrows. Mother Teresa. Jacques Cousteau. Christiane Amanpour. Rudolph Nureyev. Judith Leyster. Wang WeiLin (the Tiananmen Square Tank Man.) Kate Leone and Rosaria Maltese (the youngest girls who perished in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire.)
Artists, politicians, speakers, writers, thinkers, doers, scientists, rebels, observers, victims and heroes all. They remember history, they stand tall, they broadcast wide, they consider the future. They honor those who went before and think of children yet to come. They plant themselves before tanks, pull down statues, write treaties, document injustice, create art, tend the poor, test frontiers, and forge pathways through flames.
The observers howl. They whisper. They incite. They model. They fail. They confess.
They get folks riled up. They calm them down. They make them feel. They demand response.
They shout in their silence and choke on their tears.
Fiction is flexible. It encourages all ends of the spectrum. Writers agitate as much as rabble rousing firebrands and salve as gently as a nurse dressing wounds.
To follow in such footsteps – I hope my words one day lead you someplace worth the vision.
There is always a reason to write.
Just a thought 41
Théodore Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa (1818-1819)
Francisco Goya’s Third of May (1814)