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On the Last Word

March 23, 2017

You say you want a revolution

Well, you know

We all want to change the world.

- The Beatles, Revolution

 

 

The month of March is named after Mars, the Roman god of war. Appropriate; it seems everyone everywhere these days is at war.

 

Wars of missiles, bombs, and drones. More dangerous: wars of words. Shellfire of sanctions, speeches, editorials, hashtags, executive orders. Explosions and gunfire make a terrible noise, but the sound that precedes them is worse; words fired, pitting people against people, rallying them to hate.

 

Religions launch words against one another, and against non-religions too. Public, private, nongovernmental, multi-national organizations. Nations against non-nations, sub-nations. Statesmen, party leaders, demagogues. Populist campaigners, protestors, bloggers, saying they want a revolution. Well, you know

 

We all want to change the world.

 

But hatred is a loud emotion. A big, loud, ugly noise, that starts as a whisper slipped into morning headlines and coffee cups. It feeds on inattention first, then ignorance, then fear, till the volume is so high it mutes all other emotions and sounds.

 

You say you want a revolution

Well, you know,

 

I do not believe in war. Reason cannot spar with hatred for the final word; it cannot shout loud enough to be heard without turning to hate itself. So if you can no longer hear laughter, empathy, another point of view, do not engage. Do not react. Respond:

 

‘Ok.’

 

On the 23rd of March 1839, 178 years ago today, a Boston newspaper editor first used that abbreviation to mean ‘all correct.’ But long before that, in Scotland the expression och aye was used to say ‘all right.’ The Greek ola kala means ‘it is good,' the Choctaw Indian okeh 'it is so,' and in some West African languages too, it means ‘all right, yes indeed.’

 

‘What does a word mean? And a life? In the end, it seems to me, the same thing.’

Jhumpa Lahiri

 

Ok is a military commander stopping to count, exhaling: Zero Killed. Ok is a mother’s soothing acknowledgement of a crying toddler’s fears. Ok is the quiet sound you make when all other words will fail. When whatever you say can and will be used against you in hate. Neither submission nor cowardice, it is a conscious choice not to engage in this war.

 

The world may want a revolution. Ok. It wants to change. Ok,

 

But when you talk about destruction

Don't you know that you can count me out.

 

You will not have my words, my voice. ‘You will not have my hate.’ You will not have my laughter, empathy, the crickets I hear at night. Your noise may drown it all out now, but you will not have the last word; March and wars cannot last forever. The equinox has passed.

 

The Hindu Holi Festival was celebrated last week. No sound, no words, no noise. Just colors exploding everywhere. People of all walks of life threw colored powder in the air to symbolize the triumph of love and peace over hate.

 

You say you want a revolution, well

 

it came in every shade of yellow, blue, pink, orange, red, purple, and green. Not a word or weapon needed. The message was clear:

 

It’s going to be all right.

 

Ok.

 

 

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