Make Pens Great Again

Although my mother brought me into the world when she was 18, my Mom first saw me when she was 38.

A generation laid between the two women.

Likewise, 23 years separated my biological father’s age and my 44-year-old Dad.

I had small-town military blood from both biological sides, going back two generations, yet I grew up on New York City’s Madison Avenue, where World War II veterans now faced off in battle over three-martini lunches.

Though I was programmed to go to college and never had a thought of enlisting, I did wrestle in high school, quite successfully so. I suppose that was the way I expressed my combat DNA during the rage of hormones. That said, I was horrible at fisticuffs and routinely got my ass kicked on the streets of 1970s Gotham and a few times in college, when I had decided to settle differences with two-legged takedowns while my opponents found the advantage with upper cuts.

Shortly after 9/11, when I had barely finished taking Hebrew during seminary — having got straight A’s — I figured I could put my expertise toward learning Arabic, another semitic language, and joining one of the U.S. intelligence agencies. The army told me that, at 37, I was too old to join. When the twin towers fell I had wept, my chest heaving uncontrollably. My next reaction was to fight back. Our middle son, celebrating his first birthday, buried his face into a chocolate cupcake, oblivious that the world around him was burning.

They say the pen is mightier than the sword.

These days, I wonder if that’s still true.

During this election cycle, the most violent in my lifetime, the “pen” has become the viral video, the tweet, the stump speech. The venomous Facebook post. (Mine included.) The skewed media analysis, both “right” and “left.” The pen no longer writes in a straight line according to the rules we learned in elementary school. It’s now a mere appendage of our emotions: it zigs and zags and scrapes and tears the page beneath it.

“Dementia” clashes with “Nazi.” Pregnant words miscarry their meaning, and we are left with hollow emojis: Anger face. Vomiting face. Face with skull exploding.

But those words and emojis aren’t pens or even “swords.” They’re daggers, switchblades wielded by thugs whose victims don’t see them coming. Or leaving.

Perhaps we’ll soon return to the patiently forged swords of “I yield my time back to the gentleman from ____” and “To The Editor:”

Perhaps on January 21.


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