Not so long ago, I went on for a bit about people who use God, the gods, or whatever deity people think will give gravitas and the appearance of veritas to their own personal agenda, bias, belief, or politics. (See: A Few Words About Using God)
I have another holy bone to pick. This one is about the bizarre American mind-fuzz on the subject of cursing. That is cursing (as in: I call on the God of all that is right and just in the universe to damn you to a life of suffering and pain as the only righteous payment for the evils you have done….); not cussing or going on a God-damned rant.
Somewhere along the way after we came to the undergrown fork in the road between British English and American English, we immersed ourselves in intentional cultural amnesia, and forgot what cursing actually means.
When little hunched-over hags in fairy tales spit between their fingers into the dust of the road and pronounce a curse on someone — like “You will spin for a thousand lifetimes at your spinning wheel and the wool of your sheep will pass through your fingers until they bleed, and the bones wear down to nubs wrapped in shards of flesh — and not one inch of wool will ever skein into thread.” Now THAT’s a curse.
Calling somebody an asshole — not a curse.
Calling on powers and universes and gods and demons and angels to inflict pain and torment and suffering and eternal damnation? That’s cursing someone.
Telling somebody to go to hell — not a curse. Just venting steam is not cursing.
Truly pronouncing punishment — passing judgment single-handedly and pronouncing the sentence for that judgment — that is pronouncing a curse.
And regardless of whether you are passing judgment in the name of your clan, the church, the party, the family, the brotherhood or sisterhood — no matter who you hold yourself up as speaker and judge for — unless you are the duly elected law or an actual god, pronouncing a curse is not your job. And even if you are duly elected law, your job is not to curse. –Your job is to exact justice — a punishment that fits the crime (after it has been proven legally), and then only punishment that is not cruel and unusual. Payment of time, liberty, choice, possessions, fines, community service, the respect of your peers — that resonates as justice; the just payment for the offense is justice.
A curse rarely has the cool detachment of law. And justice is rarely the goal of a curse. A curse smells of revenge, emotion, and the heat of the moment. It can even masquerade as fervor on behalf of the wronged. A curse in the hands of someone out to avenge a wrong will never be just payment. It will be born of hate, whether long-burning, or heated in a flare. It will come of anger — unbalanced by grace, and fear — unbalanced by mercy.
We lost track of our history of using language to suggest to others their destiny. We lost track of our ability to use language to emotionally hurt and metaphysically wound one another. It’s no wonder we have such bullies in our schools, streets, and political debates. It’s no wonder we spend hours of bandwidth on RANTS AND ANGER. It’s no wonder we have music made of negative emotions, fears, violence and the injustice of the streets.
We’ve lost track of the power of what we create with our words, and the Pandora’s boxes we open with our words.
Worst of all, when we pronounce our curses into the airwaves, into the bandwidth of the internet or the twittering drivel of short-word damnation, we are asking for agreement. We ask for those we know to say YES! — and lend the power of their words, their upward-pointing thumbs, their LIKEs, their re-posts, their forwards, their shared empathy, their soul’s own energy, and their emotions — to our pronouncements.
Calling for agreement on a curse made of emotion in the moment —
That is not our job.
Curses — judgement — justice. None of those things are our job.
You can observe and comment — always. You can research and offer an informed opinion — always. You can have an emotional reaction –as long as you acknowledge to others and to yourself that your words have lost their detachment and any hope of objectivity. You can promise to look again with a cooler head and with more evidence. You can promise to look at the situation from the outside, the inside, and every other side available. You can step into the shoes of everyone involved. You can be the cooler head, take the high road, use your faith or your intellect or your goodness to always forgive and move on. There are a million choices. There is always another choice besides naming yourself a judge, jury, and executor of the Will of God.
To claim to know the judgment of God — the way we’ve all see the folks at Westboro Baptist Church claim to know the judgment of their god — is to break the law of the god whose name one uses.
Go sit on a jury — and you can pass judgement. Go to law school and you can plead for justice as you see it.
Otherwise — it really isn’t your job.