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Sleeping Giant

Posted by Priscilla on October 13, 2011

There has been a lot of noise in the public square the last few years.  The real America.  My values.  Our founding fathers.  Take back your country.  But it always seemed to me that the opinions attributed to hundreds of thousands of Americans were really held by only a few.  A very noisy few, to be sure.  Where were the vast crowds of American people who went to work every day in city offices , who grew tomatoes in the back yard and watched the Daily Show, who made friends with neighbors who looked different?  They were out there, right?

This last month, the sleeping giant has begun to stretch:  first the fingers wiggled in New York City, followed by the toes in Los Angeles.  The chin quivered in Philly and suddenly, in seventy-two towns and cities across the land, the giant was awake, silent no more.


Whatever your political persuasion, you have to agree that this is a sight to behold.  How long has it been since populism was the bailiwick of the left?  Not since the 1930’s have progressives spoken with such a “unified” voice.  That the voice is speaking after so many years of silence has started me thinking about silence.  When is silence (in public life or private) dangerous?  What happens when voice (corporate or personal) is crushed?

Silence imposed is a bad thing, yes?  Who is silenced, if not those we do not respect?  Once upon a time, we silenced slaves, children, often women.  We silenced the mentally ill and the socially awkward.  We silenced the poor, the less educated.  In the silencing, we took away their voice.  Voice, more than any other attribute, carries the identity of each separate person, so in silencing others, we say to them, “You have no value, you are not really you.”  Who are we silencing now?

What about silence accepted?  Can I, a man or woman of means and education and a certain degree of social power, choose silence because I am safe, because I worry about important things, or because I am not affected?  My guess is that accepting silence on those terms ravages my identity as effectively as I crush the identity of those I silence.  I become thin.  I become inconsequential.  I become nothing. 

Is silence ever good?  Sit Alone in Silence, my yet un-published novel about a man who will do anything to rid himself of guilt except confess, suggests that it is.  The world is full of voices; the public square is noisy with the shouts of those who want to be heard, who want to force their identities onto me, onto you.  There is a time to sit alone and silence all the other voices in order to hear the one voice.  Identity.  Reality.  Truth.  

What do you think?


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