Words are my stock in trade. They are part of an actor’s tool kit, too, along with costumes, facial expressions, sets, lights and so forth. However, as a writer I think a lot about words, more probably than any other profession. Lawyers, teachers, politicians (apologies to teachers for sandwiching them so) are sometimes adepts with words. However, I think it’s safe to say that writers – playwrights, poets, print journalists, lyricists, bloggers, et al – are at the mercy of words more than any other group.
Words are the foundation of all that writers create. Some might say “What about story?” Story is important. But stories can also be told through dance, puppetry, photographs, paintings, mime.
The great poet and folks singer Carl Sandburg once wrote that “Exclusive is the ugliest word in the English language.” I would say that “exceptional” is right up there with “exclusive.” To my mind it’s far more harmful. Exclusive will keep you out of a country club. Exceptional is destroying our society, our economy, our moral compass.
Congress gave health insurance companies an exception to the anti-trust laws. Since the take over of the US government by Wall Street, I have repeatedly heard the word exceptional applied to investment bankers and their confreres, when Obama and company explain why they won’t regulate or prosecute the people who broke the financial back of the American people, and now appear to be ready to cut off our legs as well.
Exceptional talent is how movie stars and movie makers are described. I guess that’s why they think it’s okay for one of their own to drug and butt fuck a 13 year old girl.
Exceptionalism was the theme of Obama’s pathetic speech to the Olympic committee. Exceptionalism is what makes the Narcissist-in-Chief think he can conquer Afghanistan, a country sometimes called “the graveyard of empires.” Exceptionalism is what leads to empire building. I’m glad there's a place like Afghanistan on the planet. Empires needs a graveyard. I’m saddened, though, by the needless and increasing numbers of troops who are and will continue to die in this feckless adventure.
Last night my friend Spats White told me I should win the Nobel Prize just for being so prescient about the onslaught of narcissism in our society. Two years ago I began to refer to our current time as the Age of Narcissism. Every computer screen, every PDA, every cell phone, functions as a virtual mirror for far too many people.
I wish I’d been so prescient about Obama. It was just before the election that I realized this guy would be trouble. By then, I’d already donated money to his campaign (a first for me -- donating to a politician) and the lawn signs had been up since spring. So, being something of a narcissist myself, I went ahead and voted for him anyway. I don’t feel too badly, as everyone else running in the primaries and general election would have been just as bad if not worse. They’re all bitches for the bankers. Obama was just quicker to drop his pants and bend over when money came calling.
These words of mine today will incite various reactions among the handful of people who read them. Good. That’s what they are meant to do. Sometimes words are ugly. Sometimes they are beautiful. Sometimes they are weak. Sometimes they are strong. That is the nature of words.
I only have words in a society that increasingly denigrates and disregards writers and thinkers – something that I think began with Hollywood. Directors and movie stars like to be thought of as creators of art. Actually, they interpret words into image and action. The fact of the writer’s existence is often an inconvenience to their self-image. Unfortunately, this attitude toward writers has seeped into the general consciousness.
The late Jason Miller was a dear friend of mine. Having won a Pulitzer for his play “That Championship Season” and having been nominated for an Oscar for his acting in the first “Exorcist” movie, his opinion was always interesting to me. His take was simple. He told me, “Anybody can act. But when you can write, you’ve really got something powerful at your disposal.”
The problems are obvious; the questions are not so obvious. I don’t have any solutions or answers anyway. The only thing I know for sure is that, always, first there are words.