Truman Capote once told People magazine that he was writing a gossip-filled novel that would act like a gun: “There’s the handle, the trigger, the barrel, and, finally, the bullet. And when that bullet is fired from the gun, it’s going to come out with a speed and power like you’ve never seen — wham!” When a preview of “Answered Prayers” was published, it caused high society to go gunning for Capote just because he shot some people down in print.
A bit of a pistol, Capote wasn’t the only writer using a firearm as metaphor. “Chekov’s gun” postulates, “If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don’t put it there.” Well, that’s just the point, isn’t it? If you have a gun, you’re planning to use it. Happiness is a warm gun.
You can call me gun-shy, but there’s an explosion of violence in our language that is backfiring into our national psyche. I’m offering a bullet point that will mollify our language, even as we stand, hands on our heads and legs spread apart, to make sure we’re not carrying at the airport. So I charge great guns into my storeroom of ammunition … dictionaries. I’m shelled with a super-sized stock of words that fire me up. What would help me to discharge this mood?
Permit me to shoot over just one suggestion, one that will make you my top gun. Oh no, don’t jump the gun; I don’t want to take away your sport rifle. I simply ask you to realize that you are what you speak. Let’s not assault each other with violent language.
Well, I’m under the gun on my word count, so I’ll have to cease firing these repercussive words. We’re blasting into the Year of the Snake on Feb. 10. Perhaps we can unload a little of the snake oil from our language, priming ourselves instead with charges of beauty and rounds of love. A molting of outgrown skin will mitigate any of the violent venom that comes with the bite of the snake and could be replaced with bombardments of peaceful words. How’s that for straight shooting?
"And I dreamed I saw the bomber jet planes
riding shotgun in the sky,
turning into butterflies
above our nation."
— Joni Mitchell
Hannah B. Hayes is a former Both Sides Now debate columnist, small-business owner and peace activist. She has been a part of the Evergreen community for more than 35 years.