Thursday, March 25, 2010

Expression Without Fear

Percolator-n-coffee cup (kawaii cute) Valentin...

-->Does anyone use a percolator anymore? To make coffee, I mean. The last time I used one was on a Boy Scout camp out. Perhaps the large, spigot-types can still be found at AA meetings, having become almost symbolic of 12-Step communities. Generally, though, they've been so thoroughly replaced by drip makers, some of my classmates may have never seen one.

Percolators work like this: a basket filled with ground coffee and a hollow stem is inserted into a pot filled with water. Usually, an electric current heats the water until it begins to bubble up through the stem and wash over the grounds. My grandmother placed hers on a wood stove and I heated the one I mentioned over an open fire, but the effect is the same. The downside is, if you're not careful using one of these gadgets, you can make the coffee strong enough to practically strip rust from beneath your car.

The upside is they've given us a great figure of speech: bubbling up. And, as you're probably thinking, something has bubbled up for me. If you've followed this blog or looked back over some of the more serious posts, you know I have one or two convictions that I let surface occasionally. One of them I learned as a child, namely, it's a good idea to follow the Golden Rule whenever possible.

I'm troubled, however, and deeply so, when convictions become the basis for hurtful behavior and specifically, I'm referring to hate messages received by members of Congress who voted in favor of the health care reform bill. What concerns me is not the bill itself, but the implication that voting one's conscience is dangerous to health and family. Convictions are powerful things and in a free society, one ought to be able to express them without fear.

And it's the mode of their expression that is at issue. I have friends who fall on opposite sides of the fence when it comes to a woman's right to choose, but our relationships are based on other factors besides politics. We've learned to respect one another because there's more to us than merely this one thing.

And maybe that's the problem. People resort to threats when they don't see how they have any other way to get their point across. Either that, or they've lost sight of what my friends and I have learned, that in the real world, we are more important than the discrepancies between us. Don't get me wrong, I believe strongly in the value of ideas. I just believe we serve them best when we refrain from turning them into baseball bats and threaten to use them to beat other people over the head. Figuratively or literally.

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