And why should April 18th give anyone pause to wonder why it has any special note?
This question is particularly relevant after the bombing that happened at the Boston Marathon on Monday, April 15th as Bostonians celebrated Patriot Day.
Well April 18th marked the 18th observance of National Columnists Day. And if you think it’s just another obtuse attempt to focus attention on a group of nerdy word-smithy types who are searching for significance by any means necessary, I’d say you are wrong. Not because I am counted among them, but because as a columnist I understand the honor and gravity of raising ones’ voice in a pointed and decisive way about the issues of the day.
In times of steady state, columnists write their perspective about pervasive issues from the racism that permeates the Republican Party to price gouging by the big oil companies. As columnists, their editors give them artistic license to exalt their opinions in pithy crafted and provocative essays. But in times of crisis, columnists rise to the level of their prose and write about what people are feeling and thinking on a granular level. Often times what emerges in their soliloquy of words is deeply personal and poignant.
Take Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts for example. His column about the 9-11 terrorist attack titled “From here we’ll go forward” captured the outrage and solidarity we all felt as Americans in a visceral yet defiant way. He not only rose to the level of his prose, he supplanted it with tough talk and tongue lashings for those that dared to disquiet our domestic tranquility which is among the great liberties we associate with being an American.
For his stirring offering that was reprinted in newspapers around the world and elicited thousands of reader comments, Pitts won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary. It wasn’t his motive. It was fitting recognition for raising his voice and giving a voice to the sentiment of our collective souls at a difficult time.
He started the piece by saying, “It’s my job to have something to say. They pay me to tease shades of meaning from social and cultural issues, to provide words that help make sense of that which troubles the American soul.”
That sentence alones warrants an Amen brother Pitts.
Moments after the Boston Marathon bombing, columnists took to the webisphere – and the printed page – and filed essay after essay capturing the concern, fear, sadness, loss and rage we all felt following this awful and fatal assault against our nation.
As Pitts so aptly stated, it’s the job of a columnist to have something to say. In times such as this, columnists weighed in and had a lot to say. In his piece about the bombing Pitts wrote, “Americans stand defiant with Boston.”
S.E. Cupp of the New York Daily News wrote, “Stay strong, Boston.” Clarence Page of the Chicago Tribune wrote, “Make no mistake, I don’t feel terrorized; I feel mad.” Zaheer Ali of the Grio wrote, “Please don’t be Muslim,” fearing that ethnic and religious profiling that could fuel violence against the Muslim community.
These columnists represent a range of voices in a symphony of words to be sure. There are others, countless others who have weighed in under the weight of this tragic attack. They are the voices crying in the wilderness, shouting in a crowded room and whispering in a library.
So I salute you – my fellow columnists – on National Columnist Day and every day that you put pen to paper or fingers to keyboards. Raise your voice, raise your glass and speak truth to power whether the nation in steady state or in the height of a crisis. It’s more than a job, its calling and a privilege when people not only read your words but feel them too.
Veronica Hendrix is a syndicated columnist and feature writer whose work has covered the span of the human continuum – from clinical trials of male contraceptives, to the gang violence. She is the owner of Bromont Avenue Foods. She is the author of “Red Velvet Gourmet Spice Rub and Seasoning Heart Healthy Recipes.” Visit http://bromontavefoods.com for more information. For comments, interviews, speaking engagements or moderator requests please send an email to [email protected].