A blog isn’t the place to go into problems of this scope, but for some reason today I find myself annoyed again by the almost universal practice of hinting—not saying things directly but instead suggesting them, communicating through “masks,” using allegorical techniques to “send a message,” to “veil” what the speaker wants to say about a topic, a person, a work of art or a body of work. The most idiotic and cowardly form of this is the timed phone call, where the caller hangs up. There have been a lot of those lately. (I know, I know, I could get caller ID, but why should I have to?) Anyone intrigued by this subject might check out an essay I published in the online magazine Drunken Boat. Here’s the link:
An earlier post took up the question of courage; and clearly the source of so much indirection is cowardice, the fear of standing out from the herd, of having negative things said about you, of not getting good treatment from the various dispensers of literary fame. But where’s the surprise in that, considering the quality of American life today? Practically no one nowadays ever risks doing or saying anything that might incur censure or even loss of a free lunch. We have a wimpy Congress that has taken the war in Iraq lying down, we have a public that quickly falls into step if anyone calls their objections to what is happening at the national and international level “un-American.” (Why should any citizen of a country that invented freedom of speech, and especially a presidential candidate, have to apologize for observing that our history is intimately entwined with racism--see the Constitution--and that the effects of that history are still with us?) We have religious denominations that actively foster hypocrisy about sexuality and a press that falls into line where the missionary position on so-called “family values” are concerned. The reality is a bit more complex, as New York Governor David Patterson’s recent disclosures demonstrate. I want America back. The nation of freedom fighters—Washington, John Paul Jones, Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Whitman, Emma Goldman, Langston Hughes, Muriel Rukeyser—has been replaced by a swarm of company men and hinters. They have their reward, in the form of consumer goods and medals. But the palm goes to figures like Noam Chomsky, Adrienne Rich, Toni Morrison, Marilyn Hacker, and Gore Vidal.