My morning commute has become much less enjoyable, thanks to the ever darkening news in this new Presidential cabinet that now occupies Washington. I imagine yours has also – if you are brave enough to listen to the morning news. If any of you ever thought that it really doesn’t “matter” who sits in the Oval Office, and in the President’s cabinet – I hope you can see clearly now, how desperately wrong that thinking is.
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington…I haven’t seen this film in many years – but I was thinking about it today, out on the trail, as I day-dreamed about doing something that could disrupt this vulgar cabinet and presidency that now controls the United States of America.
Words. Words were the weapon of choice for Mr. Smith, as played by one of my favorite Actors…Jimmy Stewart, bless his soul – and the message this film delivers is a powerful one. Civic Duty. Remember these words: “Ask not what your Country can do for you, but what you can do for your Country!” (JFK – in his Inaugural Speech).
Mr. Smith did just that – he stepped up and fought, on behalf of freedoms – not with guns! but with words, and words alone. In the film, Mr. Smith was fighting against a corrupt political system (sound familiar?) and in order to “hold the floor” he had to maintain a steady flow of words, or speech – or he would lose the floor.
BTW: (Before the film was released, in the year 1939, the director, Frank Capra asked the Washington Press Club to set up a screening for the Congressman, Senators, and Supreme Court Justices – it did not go over well. One third of the audience left before the film ended; the Senate Majority Alban W. Barkley described the movie as silly and stupid, and complained that it made the Senate look like crooks (hmmmm…) – and Joseph P. Kennedy, the US Ambassador to the U.K., said the film ridiculed democracy and would do untold harm to America’s prestige in Europe. )
Words. Jimmy Stewart’s character maintained control of the floor, not with pitchforks or firearms, but with Words. The amazing power of words is their ability to be used in ways that can be tricky…like “double speak” if you remember this term from George Orwell’s brilliant book “1984.” Words can be used in support of concrete scientific proof – such as Global Warming…and words can be used in support of those who believe that Global Warming is simply “a hoax.”
Words are merely tools, and as with all tools, they fulfill the aim that we attach to them. A simple word, in and of itself, can have a rather static meaning: ie – woman. But this word “Woman” does not stand alone – it simultaneously represents a fully fledged belief system in our country; a belief system that further expands and articulates the very meaning of this word “Woman” – thus solidifying a specific position in our society….ie: “Women don’t deserve to earn as much as Men.” This word “Woman” thus presents a narrowing of what it means to be an earner…to be less valued as the man sitting in the cubicle beside you, who is making more money per hour – simply because he is NOT a She.
What about the dangers that certain individuals must face on a daily basis, here in the United States, because they are seen through the prism of these three considerably dangerous words: Young, Black, Male. Woman may be limited – but Young Black Male? African American? He is the weight of the Americas itself. What does one do when the very name you carry on your person, on your skin, is an on-going assault, a swarm of carnage that affects you in a dangerous and very real way, all around this country….or this newly injected phobia into our mainstream culture – “Muslim”.
Words…even a single Word carries weight; carries history; carries expectation, silence, invisibility, and sadly, even danger. And yes, there are times when a single word can also feed the on-going obliteration of an entire race, an entire people; and it is then that a word in itself, becomes dangerous.
Words, language, they are one of our greatest and most powerful tools, and they serve all people – regardless of color, race, or creed.
Words can serve as a tool for freedom – or repression.
Words can restore justice, or create greater injustice.
Words can desecrate, illuminate; guide, or disrupt.
Words are power. And what they deliver is and always will be, entirely up to us.
I think of Jimmy Stewart, standing before Congress, owning the floor through his steady flow of Words – and through this simple, daunting, civic act – he created profound disrupt!
Let us remember. We might be in need of our own profound disrupt in the coming days, months, and years ahead.