by Chris R. Morgan


ANNOUNCER: This is the Channel 62 News “Soapbox Minute,” brought to you by Exorcist IPA. “The power of hops compels you.”

ANCHOR: Jacob Robard works part-time as a bookkeeper for a septic tank removal service in Erie. He’s here to give us his take on a pressing issue of the day. Jacob.

JACOB: Right now, one of the great moral crusades of our time is the abolition of the death penalty. I know that there are other things to worry us: nuclear war, the sex trade, abortion. But the death penalty seems singular in our nation; it’s our eccentricity, our quirk. It unsettles us at our core being and envelops our character to the point of total definition. It’s like autism, I guess, something to be strictly discouraged in our nature despite how deeply ingrained it truly is. I suspect some people would sooner have it broadcasted on public access before seeing it abolished in total.

I have no answers myself. Frankly speaking, I’m quite agnostic about the whole thing. However it’s a useful analogy for my own issue.

Banning the skin graft treatment has been a central objective in my life for several years. I suppose you could call it a “crusade.” People might think that’s grandiose, but I refuse to err on the side of modesty when facing down one of our greatest moral failings. Sure, I can’t tell you much about the origin or basic history of the skin graft. I’m not that kind of expert. What’s clear, though, is my certainty. My certainty that the skin graft’s existence in our country has had nothing but a corroding effect on it.

For professing that belief I’ve amassed a good supply of flak, predominantly from people who are burn victims, people who used to be burn victims, and people who are related to burn victims. Let me be clear that I understand why that is. In recent years there’s been a nationwide drought of empathy, but I’m fortunate enough to have not been affected by it. But I can’t compromise my views all the same. In the path that I’ve chosen I’ve seen my fair share of the burned. I refuse to call them victims. That would not be truthful. They are blessed.

The idea of being “blessed” is wholly corrupt in our culture, like everything else. It’s good to know, though, that a true blessing is still attainable on this earth. We have not been left behind as some would like to think. No one can truly be blessed unless they’ve been chosen to expound God’s language, yet time and time again we relegate them to victimhood.

God speaks in fire. Fire predates all communication, it predates all communicators. It would make sense that no written language can adequately reveal God’s true word and its resolute clarity. It would make sense that our only direct link to the indisputable message of the scripture can be found in our burned population, whether first degree or third degree. The lessons of God lie within every crevice and scar upon their bodies, and yet we train ourselves to avert our eyes from them. To not look is one thing, of course, it is an entirely different thing to erase. Instead of studying their marks we undo them, unseeing God’s messages and untelling each new Biblical story. No wonder we no longer need to burn books.

By now I’ve probably put out enough pages of petitions to match a Dean Koontz novel, which have gained enough signatures to match a William Carlos Williams poem. They always say it takes time and sacrifice to take a stand, to do what’s right. They say that people like me will never live to see the fruits of our efforts become ripe for picking. That to me was more of a privilege than a curse. Some are not fortunate to have the time to just say they’re right and be satisfied with it. There’s this book, it has a picture of William Lloyd Garrison in it. Sometimes I go to the page it’s on and ask it questions, as if it knew how the man it’s representing got through the hardest moments. Sometimes I mouth back the first answer that comes to my head.

If it were in my power I’d burn as many towns as possible, by myself if I have to. Small towns and suburbs, of course. I can’t just sit here and give God the impression that no one is listening, that we’ve all just turned away, even if so many of us truly have. Of course I believe that we’re still salvageable. I just need to send out the S.O.S.

Cities only seem like the easy way, but you’d be wrong there. There’s nothing to cities in the end. Whatever soul they’re imbued with is just delusion. A city’s pulse is too quick for a soul, its people don’t know its look, let alone its feeling. Anyone who’s ever knocked over their little sister’s building blocks knows all the ins and outs of how cities fall. Each building crashing into the one in front of it making a path almost as preordained as the pavement below. Nothing of substance becomes of its people, so lost until they find the nearest body of water and keep going until there are no names left in their phone books. And the fires are stillborn, obscene scribbles. God looks down on the suburb with intent and focus. There the fire never stops; it moves in and makes its home where table places and beds have been set for it. It burns and burns and burns and burns, reaching the atmosphere almost, like joyous arms. It’s the scream that never loses its voice.

These are the new croatoans. They’re still possible even now. I need to know that we know that if nothing else, so that when the time is right, we’ll receive all necessary instructions, the first being, I hope, to dust off the welcome mat of our lighted earth.

ANCHOR: Thank you, Jacob. To be considered for a future installment of “Soapbox Minute,” please submit your idea to And now Dan with sports.