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Write what you will, but live by your words
Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light?
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming.
Who is the actor who does many of the voice-overs for political ads? You know the one: he is so well-employed during election seasons and his voice so uniquely tied to political ads it would seem odd to hear him push the latest hybrid car or allergy medication.
While he has an appealing voice, he is frequently required to be sarcastic and biting. And because of his experience in the business, he has perfected and refined the power of his voice. Early in the season he is congenial, to be sure. But after the primary elections that voice hardens and a determined spirit of criticism oozes from his vocal chords. The rules of the game have changed, after all. It’s presidential election season.
Lest you think I am reading too much into the venom of the airways and the affect it has on the general population, turn back a page or two to the Letters to the Editor. The section has not only expanded, but it sizzles. During this political season it seems we are all the more touchy and willing to go to war over any number of issues — even those that contain no political undertones. After the presidential election in November most of us will calm down and settle in by the fire.
Amazing the venom we can spew with a keyboard slipped under our fingertips. I frequently want to go somewhere and hide for awhile. I find the negativity and critical nature of the political game entirely draining and discouraging because I believe it takes a whole lot to change the mind of an angry soul. Few letters will do it.
The reality of public life and the fight to win at all costs, no matter the wide social implications came barreling down on me at the most surprising moment this week: the moment I placed my hand over my heart, alone late one night this week as I loaded the dishwasher and watched American swimmer Michael Phelps swim to yet another Olympic gold. Thank goodness for all the Olympics coverage. I’m exhausted from staying up so late each night, but I’ll yawn with satisfaction the entire 17 days. It adds hope and balance to all the political analysis and gnashing of teeth here at home.
I chill each and every time I sing our national anthem and I occasionally wonder about my consistent response. It runs deep. Perhaps it is those memories of holding the flag while my young classmates faced me with tiny hands covering tender young hearts. Perhaps it is the sound of freedom that occasionally roars overhead and the military uniforms we frequently see in our community.
All these expressions of patriotism serve as reminders of all it takes to keep us together in a volatile world. In spite of our public brawling we are, for all our separateness, a nation.
Or perhaps it is the act itself. It is the choice to stop, place hand over heart, and utter out loud words that reflect the private yet foundational choice to honor freedom and nationality and cohesiveness. If it is your style to get fired up, type out a few choice words and e-mail them, by all means do it. But do not hide behind technology. There are moments when standing tall and making a statement within public view is a worthy personal challenge. Be loyal despite the economic disparities and the political brouhahas.
Perhaps this is, at last, the heart of the matter: Write and say what you will, but I say live it still.
Let us make it a goal this week to step back and examine our lives. Would someone, who does not know you, be able to identify what is most important in your life by watching you for a day? Do the activities of your day reflect a passion or vision you privately embrace? Are you working with your talents and skills to make our nation a better place to live?
Can you stand up, pledging your allegiance and celebrating your freedom because it publicly reflects the very private you?
Joan Bay Klope is a freelance writer and speaker who makes her home on Whidbey Island. Her award-winning column has run for 12 years in Western Washington newspapers. E-mail comments and speaking requests to firstname.lastname@example.org.