“What the Hell?”

I was raised in a home with clean words. To be honest, I never understood the notion that a certain subset of words are “bad” while the others are not. Who gets to decide? I suppose it’s up the parents when you’re in a family. But boys love to muddy their hands in life’s gray areas and their tiny brains perk up when told something is wrong.

As for words, there was such allure when I heard one deemed naughty. The offending word simply had to be repeated. My recitation would start quietly at first – in the shadows of my room where the word bubbled out, tasting heavy and wrong as it escaped my throat. I would stand in front of a mirror practicing my elocution and intonation like a Shakespearean actor rehearsing lines. As I adjusted to the word’s weight and volume, at some point, it didn’t seem “bad” anymore. It was just a word. Inevitably, this word seeped out during normal conversation and I found myself on the wrong end of the word police. Yes, I’ve tasted soap a time or two.

I’ve raised my family in a home with clean words – we called it our little bubble. We’ve never had trouble from the kids; rules-followers who are like their mother. Sometimes a word has escaped when something heavy dropped on my foot, but I’ve mostly toed the line in the bubble – even though I still have a problem with the word-regime who decides such things.

But there are times in your life when June Cleaver-esque words such as heck, dang, and darn just aren’t strong enough. When events swirling around you are so far beyond comprehension that the only thing you can say is, “What the hell?”

“What the hell?”

I’ve woken up to such news a time or two in my life. Natural catastrophes or tragic events don’t cause this reaction. Bad things happen, I’ve come to accept that. Unfortunately, crime really doesn’t even surprise me anymore. This world is full of bad intent. No, what causes this reaction is the shocking revelation of the darkest side of humanity. People infused with hate cause it.

It’s all you can say when incomprehensible evil flashes across the news.

“What the hell?”

Are there really still white supremacy rallies? Where did the people with tiki torches come from? Who knowingly drives a car into people just because they disagree with him? What the hell is happening here?

This is all mind-blowing to me. I walked around in a funk all day trying to digest what I had seen and read. But I couldn’t. It’s like a brussel sprout: you can lube it up with all the butter you want and you’ll never get it down!

Hate of that scale is un-wordly. Hate like that doesn’t belong here and that is why “What the hell?” is the only way to describe it. Because that’s precisely where it comes from: hell.

Evil like that demands immediate condemnation, not flippant, non-committal words offered in 140 characters or less. There is a wrong side… and it’s obvious. I would like to propose a very simple definition: If you consider yourself superior to anyone because of a genetic difference, you’re on the wrong side. Actually, let’s make it simpler: If you consider yourself better than anyone…


Evil like what we saw last weekend can’t win, can it? We live in a democracy. We choose what wins by either accepting or rejecting its premise. In order for evil to win, we have to give it power over us. And now, I’m haunted by the obvious question, “Have we?”


***A disclaimer for my dear mother. Please rest easy. I’m only implying the use of the word as a curse. It’s just wordplay. A title tease to get people to read. I’m trying to cleverly use it in more of a Biblical sense – as in the opposite of Heaven.


14 thoughts on ““What the Hell?”

  1. I had a thought mulling over your final question: “Have we?”

    How the second coming is touted as an us and them event. Good against evil as in Christians against the rest. Yet what happened is much more inclusive. What happened is good and bad threw themselves into a great big cocktail, and half was tipped here and half over there. And then they were not the same. They became us and them.

    “Have we?”

    I think we always can and often have unthinkingly. And now the “word police” prefer 140 character or less of “up yours jack” – then maybe we might find we stayed “there” (with hindsight).

    Thank you Mark.

  2. Fools with Tiki-torches are like the monster under our bed. Monsters exist, they always have, they always will – but it is our attention that draws them to the space under our bed.

  3. My words (plus a *&^% lot more) exactly! I’m all for bringing back things like some music and denim jean styles but for this to start bubbling up from the swamps they from is not a “trend” I want to see ever again.

  4. With you there KSBETH, particularly considering all of the disasters truly beyond our control; hurricanes, tornadoes, cancer, birth defects. The thought that within our midst we’ve entire groups of human beings who believe such acts are in any way appropriate or necessary boggles the brain. How can this be?

  5. Thank you Mark for writing about this evil! I want so much to believe the world is filled with so much more love, caring than hate, hurting others. I too, still walk numbed by the events in Charlottesville! I always wonder how can so many hard horrible things happen to people that are beyond their control, like childhood cancer then others choose to inflict harm purposefully on others. I continue to so appreciate your words. Margy

  6. Evil will always exist, Mark.
    The evil we’ve seen recently has been there all along; it’s just been quiet and under the radar for awhile.
    Now its time to take action and use love and wisdom to fight hate and ignorance.

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