Writers Must Sometimes Poop Where They Eat
My cat Percy likes to poop under my desk. One suggested remedy is to place his food bowl there because cats instinctively know not to poop where they eat. By the same token, my wife quite sensibly raised an eyebrow at my recent letter to the editor of our local newspaper.
“I don’t disagree with what you’re saying,” she said, “but I don’t want people coming here to burn our house down.”
My letter was in response to one titled, Nation must turn back to God. Tony Wright of Waynesboro wrote that our country has gone off course and the only way to fix it is to bring it back to its religious roots. His evidence: teen pregnancy, drug use, and murder have increased because God was kicked out of our schools, and “God is a gentleman and will not intrude where He's not wanted”; Roe v. Wade was “put into the Constitution,” which permits us to sacrifice “4,000 babies a day to the god of choice.”
Usually, I ignore bucktoothed rants like this. There’s an old message-board credo that goes, “Don’t feed the trolls.” It’s a restatement of Mom’s advice to ignore bullies, insane people, and those you don’t agree with. If you don’t give them attention, they will fade away. It’s a form of capitalistic theory I usually subscribe to. Likewise, if there’s a movie, book, or other commercial venture you wish would die, don’t give it money.
But then there’s the other side of the coin that says the reason lunatics are the only people ever heard is that they have the loudest voices. "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing,” Edmund Burke is supposed to have said. I’m a writer, so what I can do is raise my voice in opposition to ignorance.
The newspaper titled my rebuttal, Forefathers made land with no religion. I pointed out that the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment—the one that says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”—was written back in 1789. I think that qualifies as being back at our “roots.” That law prohibits our government from establishing a national religion, favoring one religion over another, or supporting a religious idea with no identifiable secular purpose. It also protects Christians from governmental persecution as much as it protects atheists from the theocratic impulses of those who have limited their lifelong reading diet to a single book.
I told Tony Wright that if he wants to live in a country where God sits at the center of government, he should move to Iran.
This isn’t the first time I’ve reached my snapping point. Previous subjects have included Virginia’s bigoted constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and our local prosecutor’s sodomization of the First Amendment by means of 16 felony indictments against a porn store owner for “obscenity.”
No, I certainly don’t want to make a habit of pooping where I eat; I don’t want to alienate my own community. But if I didn’t defend my home against ignorance and blind hatred, then I wouldn’t deserve to live here. I only hope that, in hindsight, I will be able to say my poop doesn’t stink.
Collect all of Matthew Warner’s columns in Horror Isn’t a 4-Letter Word: Essays on Writing & Appreciating the Genre, from Guide Dog Books. You can also visit Matt in his online home at matthewwarner.com, headquartered in Staunton, Virginia, where he lives with Deena Warner.
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