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The Word is Hate
© 2012 James LaFond
The Word is Hate… He told me that it was ‘hate in a bottle’ and I listened, because he was my father. He told me that no good could come of using a word that had been crafted to justify and perpetuate evil. I believed him for years, than doubted him for years. I even evoked The Word in anger once during an armed confrontation. Now, living in a world which I now consider evil, the same world where The Word is the single most publicly spoken word and most recorded lyric, I have come to believe him again.
Whether you love The Word or hate The Word, savor it, or decry it, you will disagree with the following statement, which I hold to be true.
The Word is the single most powerful, and most toxic of its kind.
You might deny this statement. But consider that I have not yet named The Word, not even used its first letter, nor in any but the broadest sense defined it. Yet you know its name. If I used the term The Woman, and you, every one of you, immediately new that I referred to a certain actress, who had never before been identified as The Woman, would you not have to admit that she was the most powerful of her kind, or at least the most notable?
Now that we are firmly in agreement that we are in fact speaking of The Word, a word unspeakable to some, and without which others seem incapable of constructing a sentence or a song, let me state that I, as a writer, have been imposed upon by The Word.
Recently my proofreader and my publisher asked me if I really wanted The Word to be the focus of the first line of my memoir on racism: The Lesser Angels of Our Nature. As a writer, I said ‘absolutely’. They both warned me though, that I was writing in a world where it is very easy to be labeled a racist, and that that label never comes off once applied. During the conversation with my publisher he was stricken by the realization that I had anticipated this and said, “I had no idea that you actually had a criteria for its use. You might want to give the readers a head’s up. A blog is a good place for that kind of geeky discussion.”
Here they are; my self-imposed rules for use of The Word in literature.
1. People for whom The Word was intended to oppress, will be quoted when using it, but not as frequently as they actually use it. My preferred ratio is about 1 in 10.
2. People for whom The Word was crafted by their ancestors, or by people that looked like their ancestors, to help oppress those it was used to define, who use The Word, will not be quoted in free website content, and will only be quoted in an unsympathetic manner, usually just before being beaten up.
3. Fictional characters will be held to the same standard.
4. Protagonists, that is the viewpoint characters in a story, will be held to a higher standard, and not be people inclined to use The Word. For instance, Randy Bracken, evil conflicted working-class white supremacist, holds The Word in low esteem, as a failed and unworthy label once used by a now thankfully defunct Southern Aristocracy. Likewise, his wheel-man, Ike Coltrane, considers the use of The Word that had been used against his ancestors to be beneath him. Their associate, Eddie, a former crack-dealer from the Eastside, once used The Word effusively. But now, since he’s given up the ‘crack thing’ for the ‘time-travel thing’ and likes to think of himself as ‘Eddie Scientific’, aspires to higher forms of expression.
There you have it, my four rules for The Word in literature.
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