An Open Letter to Mr. Stephen King

Dear blog-reader types,

Noted author Stephen King made the following pitch for literacy from the Library of Congress yesterday:

“I don’t want to sound like an ad, a public service ad on TV, but the fact is that if you can read, you can walk into a job later on. If you don’t, then you got the Army… Iraq… I don’t know. Something like that. It’s not as bright. So that’s my little commercial for that.”

While he received little, if any, applause for his remarks, Mr. King’s words have inspired me to write this open letter. I’m not even going to be so petty as to mention that he–a professional, best-selling writer–followed “if you can read” with “if you don’t.” (What I just did is called “paralepsis,” by the way.) Please indulge me for a moment.

– – – – – – – – –

Mr. King,

I am both a veteran of the United States military and a natural-born American citizen. In the interest of full disclosure, I’m admittedly not a fan of your work (I prefer not to read much fiction). I did, however, enjoy the made-for-TV miniseries based on your best-seller “The Stand.”

M-O-O-N… that spells… well… I assume it spells something. But I wouldn’t know. Being a former military man, I apparently can’t read very well.

In all seriousness, not only can I read relatively well in my own native language, I can also read (and speak) 3 other languages, and am currently toying with a 4th. I realize that polyglotism is not common amongst most natural-born American citizens, but it might come as a surprise to you that it’s actually quite common amongst members of the military. How is that possible?

Many military members are products of multicultural families (i.e. father was military, mother was a native of Country X), so they were raised speaking multiple languages in the home. Additionally, many of the men and women in the military spend countless years (often without family or loved ones) in foreign countries where they are forced by circumstances to acquire the native tongue just to get by. Finally, many of my military brothers and sisters (me included) were fortunate enough to attend the prestigious Defense Language Institute, the premier language school on the planet. So much for us being illiterate in other languages.

I also have an actual college degree in a rather technical subject, and am considering pursuing another (MA in Japanese). In fact, most (if not all) of my military friends have at least a Bachelor’s degree. Many of them even have Master’s degrees, also in rather technical subjects. So much for us being uneducated.

Many among my brothers and sisters enlisted (or re-enlisted) specifically to go to Iraq and Afghanistan to serve their country and fellow man. Both those who enlisted and those who re-enlisted were and are well-educated human beings who left lucrative careers in various fields to serve. They did not re/enlist just to get away from a crappy life, crappy economy, or crappy neighborhood. Nor did any of them re/enlist so they wouldn’t have to learn how to read.

I would like to ask you one question: How is it that you, one of the intellectual elite, are so poorly-informed about the fine young men and women who make up the US Military? Is it possible that you have some sort of political agenda that slipped out while you were speaking extemporaneously? Surely, that cannot be the case. Even you are far too intelligent to bite the hand that protects you while you write creepy books.

Warmest Regards,

Michael Hacker
USAF (1987-1998)

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