This morning I learned that the women behind MADD, mothers against drunk driving, had to change the language of their message to better rouse the public in support of their cause. Apparently, talking about how drunk drivers cause accidents wasn't sufficient to whip up emotions. And, importantly, if your message doesn't whip up emotions, it doesn't stand a chance of producing an outcome other than boredom. Which is to say, persuasion is never enough.
So the MADD women changed their language, from accidents to crashes. Accidents seem rather benign: like stubbing your toe. Crashes, decidedly not. Crashes are always malignant; they evoke bloody gushing wounds, shards of glass, torn flesh, broken bones, crumpled metal, sirens, ambulances, carnage, wreckage and screaming. Replacing accidents with crashes worked like a charm. This simple substitution evoked the necessary emotions that MADD women could harness to action. And they did.
As I laid in bed listening, I wondered, what word could I use to convey the devastation produced by breast cancer? What word means cut by a knife, burned by radiation, poisoned by chemicals, shocked by painful mortality, riddled with doubt, left to race for a cure with the devil who knows how close behind you? What word could convey the need to prevent all this needless suffering of humanity? Does the term, Pure Cure, really do the job? Does it whip up passion sufficient for the revolution that needs to take place so that research on the breast cancer virus and funding for Tuohy's preventive breast cancer vaccine can begin? I suppose mad men would say not.
If not one word, then perhaps a story will do.
As I continued to listen to NPR, stories of Hanukkah began to fill my ears. I was raised a Catholic, so the stories were more a curiosity for me than a religious reverberation. But the last of them moved my soul; and, thus, this blog today.
It was a story of a young Jew from New York who enlisted in the Army shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. His family worried that he might be sent to Europe - horror of horrors, for what if the Nazis got a hold of him? It couldn't have been much of a relief to learn that he'd be sent to the Pacific, as brutal a battlefield as any in history.
The young man had to leave two of his best buddies, face down and dead, in the waters sweeping the shore of the island they were storming in December 1942. Weeks later, in a tent in their camp, a rabbi held a Hanukkah service. The young man attended, of course. A sermon was given. (Do they call it a sermon?) Then the first candle was lit. And then, a stiff wind blew through the tent, bending the wick of the first candle toward the next, which was then lit, and that one was bent to the next, which was lit, an on until they were all lit.
And the Jew from New York who was a million miles from home and a universe away in war, said, "Amen." It was an ending worthy of Cecil B. DeMille.
And, so I say, Amen, too. Now all I need is a stiff wind.