Thursday, August 24, 2006

Not a Hail, Heil, or Hello

Dear Blogger,

“Hail Satan”, you said. And lightly. And I do understand now that you were quoting a song that offers no such welcome. But how can a page bear those words? How can your voice sustain them? My ears just can’t stand it. The words tear through already stretched drums and break them in one blast.

Of course, it’s not the fault of the last straw when the back of the camel pops. Not the fault of the last brick when the pile topples. But my ears have heard too much. They’ve heard the roar of televised tumbling skyscrapers, the explosion of missiles (my missiles, my own American made, not imported from Taiwan, missiles) exploding in ancient cities, the crunch of bulldozers, Caterpillars, over homes and single bodies standing, the wail of mothers and fathers, not just one, not just one nation’s, seeking their lost daughters and sons, hoarsely crying, lifting rubble, not in hope but desperation.

My ears hear mad shouts of fault, fault, fault, like the echo of some ghostly court, but it is no game, just one terrorist liability after another, shaking the world at some level not measurable on the moral Richter scale.

And if words mean anything, which I will grant that they may not, but if they do, then this is what the word Satan means, this holocaust of craziness, this pogrom of power wielding it’s weight for ill. Enough. Too much. Even this slight welcome is more than my world can stand.

But of course you did not mean this. It is not what you said, it’s just what I heard.

Betsy

3 comments:

Anne G G said...

As this post relates to our swearing conversation . . . you allude to the idea here that someone else might mean by "Satan" something else than you mean. When we talked the other night about swearing, I thought of this: that maybe the reason why people swear so easily is that to them, swears are signifiers without a signified . . .they mean nothing, like "oh fiddle faddle." Not that this excuses it. Though I have noticed that "damn" is the swear last to pass my lips, because sometimes when I say it the meaning suddenly rings out all around me, and I see hell's gates yawning open, and I have to pray quickly that damnation comes upon no one and nothing.

Only tangentially related . . . as I drove Dan back from the DMV today (!!! - strange and stunning experience, that), we were listening to a program that discussed the effect of the US Administration's rhetoric on the war in Iraq -- especially of the word occupation, which, while we see it as a potentially benign word, Middle Easterners relate primarily to the Israeli occupation of Palestine (it is the only occupation on their immediate horizon, other than US ones), and so the term becomes a deadly explosive that immediately damages our reputation with Iraqis.

brd said...

Your comments on damnation are, precisely, what I mean. There is a level of levity that our people in our culture enter without the appropriate darkness. It is an inherited anti-humor without the appropriate philosophical basis and its attending darkness. It's kind of like laughing at the explosion of Mrs. Niggerbaiter on Monty Python without realizing there is a deeper and darker secondary message.

Tangentially, yes, the words do mean something. Not everything, but they do carry a great weight.

You'll have to tell me the DMV story on the phone.

Seskel said...

A word has meaning which in turn has an effect on the listener. I think the swear word is an anomaly in that it has little meaning but great effect, and this tends to make people a bit conversationally trigger-happy with them, convinced that they are saying something merely because they have produced an effect.