I still laugh when I remember asking my mom if she would consider giving me credit for thinking of some inappropriate act and not doing it or starting to utter some offensive statement and not saying it.
Of course, my mom being my mom – and having lived through so many of my inappropriate acts and statements — was quick to congratulate me on the “thank goodness I won’t have to get called to school again” thing I didn’t do or the “it better not have been your sister who you heard using that word” thing I didn’t say.
That’s why I wanted to share something that I just chose not to do. It reminded me of a particularly trite and unimaginative corner of the world of news and commentary.
Today, President Obama was playing basketball in a gym at Fort McNair in Washington DC, and ended up needing 12 stitches on his lip. It’s beyond a little embarrassing to admit, but when I first heard about the president’s injury, I immediately slipped into metaphor mode, imagining that 12 stitches on the president’s face could either immediately begin or neatly end a commentary of some sort. And before I knew it I was captured by the writer’s demon – you know, the lazy and simplistic and trite demon – the one who whispers in your ear:
“Okay, look what you’ve got. A president struggling to persuade citizens to do difficult things, an opposition elbowing him and trying to make sure that he doesn’t do those things, and 12 stitches on his face from an elbow in a basketball game. Go for it. Connect them all, use the stitches as some sort of metaphor, and you’ll end up with a…..”
End up with what, Steve? Exactly what even minimally significant thing did you think you would end up with?
The result would be a pointless piece intended to show off a metaphor (and a trite and sophomoric one at that) rather than words or ideas that ever needed to be said, whispered, muttered or even imagined.
How many words are written and columns composed that begin, not with a compelling idea, but with some cuteness or gimmick in search of an idea? I know that I have written more than a few of them. So here’s what I promise: Whenever an unusual event like a president getting stitches presents itself, along with the inevitable temptation to draw some lame comparison or write some probably unfunny opening sentence, I will immediately turn off my computer and permanently delete anything that somehow made it on to the page. Cuteness arriving unaccompanied by any even minimally important idea will be presumed pointless.
So here I am, nervy enough to ask you to be grateful that I didn’t write something that, at best, would’ve wasted your time and the time of anyone who read it.
Obviously, you’re smart enough not to feel any gratitude, and are probably feeling no small amount of resentment that you even had to read this blog post.
My wonderful mom, on the other hand, will almost certainly congratulate me for the metaphor I didn’t use, the piece I didn’t write, and the facile and pointless connection I didn’t make between 12 stitches and the complexities of presidential politics.