Thursday, October 19, 2006

#302 - Reactionary Blogging

It always amuses me to see the level of reaction to the published word. My amusement stems from the fact that I happen to be a performer. That is, I spend quite a bit of time on stage (although not as much lately... must be getting old) and am always looking for the right delivery. What works in a visual/audio communication does not always (one might even say generally) translate well into the spoken word.

My previous post is case in point.

Perhaps a little background would be in order. My father was a card-carrying curmudgeon. He could snarl like no one I've ever met, either before or since. Naturally, my brother and I have both taken on aspects of Dad's personality in our own lives, and we both tend to snarl a bit in our communications with others.

As an example, whenever we would watch TV news with Dad, we would listen to some story of wrongdoing and Dad would snarl from his chair, "That's precisely why we need public floggings." I don't believe for a second that Dad would ever have been comfortable with having public floggings reinstated in this country (or anywhere else, for that matter), but we who loved him understood both the genesis and the intent of his comments. What he was really saying was that, as a society, we have gone far too soft on criminals. He knew perfectly well that the Savior advocated hating the sin but loving the sinner. However, when you're at home and in a relaxed (somewhat, anyway) setting, your natural thoughts - the ones you tend to keep locked away when you're in the public eye - will often surface. And with Dad, they surfaced like a submarine doing an emergency breach.

The actor in me loved that curmudgeonly aspect of Dad's personality. I even, on occasion, use it with my kids, but always in a kidding manner. My girls have finally gotten used to that (far fewer meltdowns now when I try it!), and even my co-workers know me well enough to rarely take me seriously unless they see one of the warning signs. If I'm snarling, but my face isn't beet-red, then they're safe.

So back to my post. I wrote that immediately after becoming aware of the incident. A man - one of those leeches whom I am required to love - forced himself upon a 15 month old child. Such an act, if memory serves, ranks among the most heinous of crimes for which some forgiveness can still be expected (at some point), but is still one for which full restitution can never be achieved in this life. Not in my view, at any rate. Hence my rather reactionary post, with all the righteous indignation expressed to me in the comments that followed.

Too bad no one could see me snarl when I wrote that.

There are lessons to be learned here, of course. One is that the written word has a far-reaching impact that goes beyond mere delivery technique. In other words, as an actor I receive immediate feedback from my performance. I can tell whether what I've just said had the desired effect. Most of the time, at any rate. But the written word is different; it stands for all time (especially in this day of the internet!) as evidence of what you think. Whether I was actually serious about the death penalty (and I still think there is some merit to adding crimes of this type to the list) for this person will never be known strictly from reading what was written. Would I myself ever be capable of taking another person's life? I simply don't know. I'd like to think that, if it came down to having to defend my family, I might. But I have no way of knowing, and I really don't want to find out. That's one of the primary reasons why I never joined the military. There was always the thought in the back of my mind that I might actually, at some point, be called upon to take someone else's life. Why I would think that way, yet support having others' lives taken to satisfy the demands of justice is something I cannot explain, but I do.

The other lesson would be knowing the danger that comes from taking even the written word at face value. The primary example here would be the traditional press - the so-called "mainstream media" - that for so long has dominated the world of communication. We learn now that our fears of bias in the press were not only well-founded, but that this bias has grown over the past few decades. It has grown to the point where very little of what they write adds any value to my own life, as I would never espouse the ideals they try to pass off as wisdom. Yet many people do take them at face value, and the result is an ever-increasing polarization in our society.

(I am not naive enough to believe that this is the only reason for that polarization, but it sure counts as one huge factor.)

So it is here at the Woundup. There are three rules for "enjoying" this blog. First, this is a rant blog. I tend to use it to be the public face of my faux-snarling personality that I don't tend to show people in real life. Secondly, as a result of the first rule, I would wish that folks not take this blog any more seriously than they would, say, the World Weekly News. Really. Those that know me well know which posts to take seriously. The rest of you just throw a few grains of salt at the screen and relax. Third, remember, please, that Woody does not ever attempt to claim to be an expert at anything. Not on this blog, at any rate. If I can claim expertise in anything, it's in being a Dad, for which I have a completely different (both in style and in scope) blog. If you want to see Woody's spiritual, family-friendly side, go visit The Inner Dad. The rest of what I do here is strictly my opinion. Or, perhaps more accurately, what my opinion would be if I weren't such a darn'd good ol' Mormon boy.

So, to Curtis, Dan, and a few Anonymous types I would say, "blog on." Heck, I wouldn't write this stuff if I didn't think I could get an occasional rise out of people, and I'm glad to see you guys have got your thought processes well entrenched. If I disagree with you, I hope I at least do so politely.

Cheers, from your loving (and curmudgeonly) Uncle Woody

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