I still hope for several feet of snow, but the leaves are newborn green – I can’t help but celebrate the rebirth.
Today I am reminded of a short story, George Orwell’s The Hanging. In that story, a man is about to be hung. At the conclusion of the story, the hanging takes place. We know nothing of the man’s crime, and yet because of the details that Orwell includes and omits, our sympathy lies with the man.
The purpose of using this story in my composition classes was to demonstrate how we can sway our readers through mindful selection of details.
Let me set a scene.
We were driving north on South Nevada just past Fort Carson. Traffic was heavy – the drivers aggressive. We were behind an olive-colored Saturn with two bumper stickers.
The larger of the two bumper stickers read, “Time for a Change. The Diaper Is Full.” The word “change” suggested President Obama. And I connected the dots. The second bumper sticker was less enigmatic: “I will not be forced to learn a foreign language to accommodate illegals in my country.”
My response was visceral. I didn’t like this guy. I had a strong urge to rear-end him, give him the finger, and drive away without a second thought. His politics disgusted me. And yet, I don’t like to think that I am so primitive. On his license plate I noticed the letters DV. He was a disabled veteran.
- Can you though a mindful selection of details, briefly tell this man’s story? Can you convince me that he is not narrow-minded and xenophobic? What experiences has this man had that have made him the man he is? What are his redeeming features?
- Using the brief notes/clues to whom this man might be, write two introductory paragraphs. In the first, through selection or omission of details, the reader’s first impression is that the man is a racist bigot with a big gun.
- In the second paragraph, flip the coin. Invent a sympathetic back-story that will make me forgive him his bumper sticker.
What is it with this country? I wouldn’t know what to do with a gun if I held one in my hand, and yet… there I was…reading his bumper stickers and feeling my blood pressure build. If I had a gun…
I think about guns a lot. During President Obama’s April 16 meeting with Mexico’s president, Felipe Calderon, Obama said that he will not seek the reinstatement of a U.S. assault weapons ban. It would be political suicide to do so. Unfortunately, he’s got that right.
The outside is inviting. Buying a gun at this Main Street establishment would not be the same as buying a gun from a twitchy guy on a dark night under an overpass in an unsavory part of a city. And yet…
I found this poster in the window (to the right of the door… in front of the American flag… above the large, ears up, German shepherd) very disturbing. God and Country in the same breath is a double whammy.
As though our special relationship with God gives us leave to set ourselves above the law? And then there is the John F. Kennedy quote: “The rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.”
I’m not in the mood to trace the context of the JFK quote, but the words are chilling. I won’t be in town for the April 18 meeting, but if I were, I would go. Just to see. Maybe to report.