Some Words and their Innuendos


Warning: This post gets political.  As we approach July 4, a couple of words have struck me with unusual force.

July 4 Parade, 2013

July 4 Parade, 2013

“Democracy and capitalism have both been hacked.”  Al Gore writes this in The Future, his current book.  I realize it is the first time I’ve seen “hacked” in serious writing without reference to computers.  So the elites who, whether from greed or ignorance, want to preserve the status quo are “hackers”?

Dictionary.com gives the original meaning of “to hack” as “to cut, notch, slice, chop, or sever (something) with or as with heavy, irregular blows.”  From this, it is clear that computer hackers were seen as cutting or chopping into (or breaking and entering) computer files.

The statement about democracy and capitalism, then, seems to mean that certain parties are bent on destroying the very structures that have made it possible for them to get where they are.  Like Jack, cutting off the beanstalk from above.  Being in the clouds may distort the perspective.

The second word example is a pair of words.  The word “iniquity” appeared in one of today’s scripture readings; it was a passage from that difficult book , the Letter to the Romans.  The reader did not pronounce the word quite clearly enough: it came to my ear as “inequity.”  What a difference a single vowel makes!  It turns out, however, that while “iniquity” is taken usually to mean wrong-doing, and “inequity” has to do with a lack of equality, both go back to the same root―Latin for not equal―and the base meaning for both is a lack of fairness.

Many of us, especially those in the middle or at the bottom economically, know that structural inequity is iniquitous. How could one make that vivid to those who have not been paying attention?

And how do you stop hackers who are supported by the Supreme Court?


A Poem for July 4


Parade Float, 2012

For many years we have celebrated July 4 at our extended family’s summer cottage in Maine. After the small town parade in the morning, we go home to prepare our potluck dish and gather with acquaintances in the afternoon for a party.  Seeing people we haven’t seen for a year can be complicated, producing the sensations in this poem:


Hail, Festival Day!

First the parade: old
cars, fire engines,
floats carry costumed
neighbors.  Then
the party: annual
acquaintance makes
conversation hard.
Even the names slip
from these not quite
strangers: is this
the grandmother who
reported two weddings,
or the mother whose
child had cancer?
An interior parade
imprints names,
connections: she’s
Mary’s daughter, he’s
Frank’s houseguest.
Is Joan the artist
or the realtor?
Brain tires with
body: oil of politeness
cannot loosen stiff
ligaments, strained
from standing
so long at attention.