Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Telling New Stories

Political rhetoric escalates and then when a public official is shot . . . the political rhetoric escalates placing blame. I played my part in that until I realized I was just being another ideologue, defending the indefensible but preferred (and not even fully liked) political party.

We need to learn to tell new stories.

Somebody at at a nonprofit with the word "family" in it (so you know you can't be against them because you can't be against "family") railed about how a purple heart was given to a soldier because he had risked his life to save a comrade, not because he had bravely gone out and killed a bunch of the enemy. The "family" man said giving the medal to the saving soldier "feminized" the medal, that we were "feminizing" the honor because we were afraid of giving a medal for killing a bunch of the enemy. And I wonder what is not brave about being feminine? What is so brave and medal-worthy about killing a bunch of people?

We need to learn to tell new stories.

Last fall, I went with a friend to see Avatar, the crazy long rehash of old stories in (admittedly) pretty 3-D. Really, it's a beautiful film to look at. But the story is old and while it was discussed as some sort of touchy-feely, white-guilt-about-the-Native-Americans parable, I couldn't help but think it advanced the discussion not at all. The good guys and bad guys are distinctly drawn---and they all act reprehensibly. There is the aggressor, there is the revenge moment when we see---and cheer cheer cheer---the moment of comeuppance, when the villain gets his right between the eyes. Boom! Hooray! An old story of violence met with violence. Is this the only way?

We need to learn to tell new stories.

I am a Christian and I cherish the stories of the Bible. I count myself lucky that I grew up in a tradition that does not treat the Bible literally, but does take it seriously. I can read of slaying giants and conquering nations and see the metaphor---or else even have the freedom to read some stories as being more important than others, the "canon within the canon." But it seems that as we, as a species, becomes more technologically advanced, we also become more literal. We are losing (have lost?) the ability to read stories and find a deeper meaning than the simple events presented, and I'm afraid we see---and love!---the violent, the bloody, the destruction that justifies our violent and destructive ways more than we see the call to stand up to evil, to speak truth to power (as has become the cliche), even to the point of self-sacrifice, without become evil ourselves.

In 2008, a dear woman and fine poet, Anne McCrady, published a chapbook of poems called Under a Blameless Moon. In the poem that gives the collection it's name, we see the reflection of a mother, wondering how her grown son learned to believe in a "good kill." She comes to this gut punch of a conclusion:

Maybe I was the one who taught him
this version of a soldier's song...
didn't we sit together
beneath a blameless moon
while I told him the story
of David launching the stone?

We need to learn to tell new stories.

Don't we?

1 comment:

  1. Neil, what a lovely post! And thank you for including me in your thoughts. It is true. We are writing God's story - the Song of Life - with our lives, our choices, our words and our love. Each day, we are called to Sing a New Song! You have inspired me to think again about our need to tell a New Story, thanks!!