In a world of darkness and confusion, stories that matter serve as lighthouses of knowledge in the black of night. They provide insight to paramount problems and/or serve as beacons of hope. Like moths to a flame, we flock to stories to shed light on the world. However, like moths, we often don’t check whether the refuge we seek is actually a ruse designed to deceive us.
An example of a story that matters is The House on Mango Street. In this story, the author describes a poor Latina girl and her family growing up in the slums of Chicago in the late 1960s. The story is a work of fiction, yet it serves as a door into the author’s childhood. Sandra Cisneros, the writer of the story, uses the character Esperanza to indirectly convey her experiences growing up in Chicago. In one passage, Esperanza encounters an older man at her new job and experiences an unsettling incident. “Then he asked if I knew what day it was, and when I said I didn’t, he said it was his birthday and would I please give him a birthday kiss. I thought I would because he was so old and just as I was about to put my lips on his cheek, he grabs my face with both hands and kisses me hard on the mouth and doesn’t let go.” No one seems to mind that this anemic, vulnerable girl was publicly violated. On numerous other occasions, Cisneros gives eerily thorough accounts of Esperanza being violated. Her story was inspired by personal experiences, so one must infer that she either went through that gut-wrenching ordeal or knew someone who did. Her originally innocent and pleasant story reveals tragic issues that plague the slums of our big cities in plain sight.
Stories don’t always have to be in the form of a book. They exist all around us, swirling around the media. Recently, a story has emerged concerning a local college professor who discussed the 2016 election. Olga Cox, a human sexualities professor working at OCC, was filmed voicing her opinions to her class and it was soon uploaded to YouTube where is currently has over 350,000 views. In her speech regarding the result, she state , “We have been assaulted. It’s an act of terrorism. One of the most frightening things for me and most people in my life is that the people committing the assault are among us. It is not some stranger from another country coming in and attacking our sense of what it means to be an American and the things that we stand for, and that makes it more painful because I’m sure that all of us have people in our families and our circle of friends that are a part of that movement and that is very difficult…We are really back to being in a Civil War…Our nation is divided as clearly as it was in Civil War times.” This story is a gateway into the toxic corruption that has infected our colleges. All teachers have their opinions and are entitled to them as long as they do not use their position of influence to control the minds of their students in areas that they have no reason to discuss. Olga Cox is a human sexualities teacher; not someone who has any business talking about her brash opinions about politics.
Don’t get me wrong; people should have the right to free speech in the right context. As someone paid by taxpayers and children’s parents to develop children’s knowledge, no teacher should try to enforce their opinion no matter what view they have. If she wants to talk about it in her own time with kids, that’s perfectly reasonable. However, in the time she is paid to talk about human sexuality, it is a violation of her duties as a teacher. As the student who recorded the video stated in numerous interviews, “College campuses are meant for education, not indoctrination.” This has been the main issue of the incident and many people, including most media outlets, have glanced over the most atrocious offence committed by Olga Cox. She not only called a presidential election an “act of terrorism,” but she accused everyone who voted for Trump a terrorist. No matter whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, calling some of your students terrorists is completely unauthorized and a violation of the ‘free space’ she claims to want to enforce in her classroom. This story provides vital, first-hand insight into the issues lingering in our public colleges.
Stories that matter don’t only provide information about the world around us. They often provide solutions for problems and can play important roles in the development of society. The Bible is by far the most influential story in all its different translations, whether you believe its message or not. The Bible has shaped the world in many ways, from establishing multiple religions and sects, enforcing guidelines for society, and by granting power through manipulation of its message in Europe. It brought people together and civilized savages while also causing immense rifts throughout the entire continent of Europe with incidents like the Protestant Reformation. One of its most influential passages is the famous Ten Commandments.
“And God spoke all these words: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
These rules have served as the cornerstone of law and order in modern society in both the Eastern and Western hemispheres. The founding fathers of America, whether they believed in the God behind these rules, used the Ten Commandments as the foundation of society. They had long been ingrained into the minds and hearts of Europeans and were able to cross the Atlantic to the new world through emigration. From that point, its influence would only spread further into the world as Spaniards, Frenchmen, and Englishmen introduced their beliefs to the natives, regretfully in a very forceful way. This book enlightened people about God and moral values, although it also led to the very corruption it sought to help avoid.
While stories are often meant to illuminate truth, they can also be used to deceive and pervert people. One of the most wicked examples of spiteful malarkey is the infamous Mein Kampf whose author is none other than Adolf Hitler. This collection of Hitler’s thoughts is filled with inspiring quotes. The future Führer claims, “The frailest woman will become a heroine when the life of her own child is at stake. And only the will to save the race and native land or the State, which offers protection to the race, has in all ages been the urge which has forced men to face the weapons of their enemies.” Hitler goes on to say, “Obstacles do not exist to be surrendered to, but only to be broken.” His work of literature incites patriotism and heroic claims to mask the fangs hidden within the words coiled around the pages. In regards to the complete annihilation of Jews, he insists, “The application of force alone, without support based on a spiritual concept, can never bring about the destruction of an idea or arrest the propagation of it, unless one is ready and able to ruthlessly to exterminate the last upholders of that idea even to a man, and also wipe out any tradition which it may tend to leave behind.” His ideas, spiked with malice, seeped into the veins of Germans and helped lead to one of the biggest wars the world has ever seen.
Stories that matter are able to mold society. Like a lighthouse, they direct people by providing insight into the rocky shores and illuminating the path. Some of these are fraudulent, designed to dupe the innocent into crashing so that the wreckage can be scooped up and sold for profit. Despite the flaws in some stories that matter, they are still essential to society. Without them, the world as we know it would sink into chaos.