Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Whisper: When Does a "Whisper" Sound Like a Scream? #AtoZChallenge Letter W

During April I'm participating in the A to Z blogging challenge.
Each day, sans Sunday, offers an opportunity to write about a
letter of the alphabet with the goal of writing 26 posts.
April is also National Poetry Month.

At the beginning of "The Man With the Broken Fingers" by Carl Sandburg there is an epigraph that describes the whispering among those in Norway who carried the man's story from town to town. The text I found on the internet doesn't include this epigraph, however. 

I thought about Sandburg's poem this evening while driving home after teaching at our local university. I had not decided what to write about for "W," but an incident this afternoon had been on my mind for hours. 

Specifically I thought about the ways silencing of voices occurs on social media. I'll describe the incident in somewhat cryptic terms because I don't want to name names for a variety of reasons; most importantly because the incident involves a well-known person in my professional circle. Suffice it to say, I posted a comment in response to a post in a group I've long been a member of on FB. I had finished reading the post, which quoted another person who said something to the effect that fiction does more than essays to speak to readers, that narrative is preferable to essays; the comment also mentioned boring essays in textbooks. 

In response I said something to the effect that I agree that narrative develops empathy and a sense of connection but that I wish people would not take a reductive either/or position. The original poster deleted my comment and sent me a private message that accused me of being combative. The message informed me that my comment had been deleted. 

From the message I received, I know that my interpretation of the quoted commentary differs from that of the one who posted it. I find value in nearly all genres, perhaps with the exception of erotica and racist treatise. I don't understand why someone can't simply offer praise without the comparison that denigrates an important mode of expression. 

I have not responded to the message, and I don't plan to respond. I heard the subtext loud and clear: My opinion isn't welcome unless I'm willing to agree or remain silent. I'm not very good at that, so I decided I needed a gesture akin to a whisper. I exited the group. I stopped following some people's posts. I whispered because deleting a comment, an act of silencing for no logical reason, screamed at me. 

I am not Sandburg's tortured man, but the expectation that I shut up unless I'm willing to suck up tortures every fiber of my being. 

Sometimes silencing is screaming. Sometimes the collective whispering resonates loudest of all. 
Image via Google Search; labeled for non-commercial reuse.


  1. That's rough. I would agree with you, luckily most of the groups I'm in are very open minded, but yes, when we don't agree with the leaders of the group, and they don't want our opinions, it's not a place for us to be. Maui Jungalow

  2. It is always amazing to me how poorly we communicate on social media. There is a quickness (or a laziness, perhaps) to assume the worst. I'm sorry that this happened and that you were effectively silenced. I agree that there is too much divide, and we've forgotten how to disagree and discuss without vilifying the other side. That makes it harder to find a middle. @abetterjulie from

  3. A very nicely written reflection on the pettiness of another person and how it made you feel. What I thought of while reading it was something that my mother always said to me when I was in high school, "Consider the source and move on." As you have done.