Words Matter

“One day I will find the right words and they will be simple. ~ Kerouac

My Granny’s birthday was yesterday. If she had lived, she would have been 92. Our favorite game we played into my adulthood was Scrabble. From a young age, I learned the importance of word choice. Each of those tiles represented a certain number of points, and beating Rushie Dae (she was a crossword aficionado, too) at Scrabble was quite the accomplishment.

Words matter. Words like mass casualties, bullet proof backpacks, lone gunman, etc. pierce to the marrow and leave a spirit of heaviness. These words and tragedies leave us broken.

Fear and hatred are powerful motivators. As a mother, I have done my best to teach my children to treat others well. As a teacher, I continue to do my best to teach kindness, model empathy, and to pursue goodness. As an English teacher, I emphasize the importance of tone. Tone is how the author feels about a subject. I tell them tone is often not conveyed well in text message or via Snapchat. It is easy to misunderstand tone if not clearly portrayed in the written word. I teach my students the difference in denotation and connotation. For example, there are positive, negative, and neutral words. As authors, a great amount of thought and care is put into word choice.

Words inspire and words incite. Why should I, as a teacher and a mother, be held to a higher standard than politicians and government officials? The power of words – both written and spoken – are the reason I emphasize class and decorum. Words are the reason I value positive qualities in others. They’re the reason I hold myself and those in offices of authority accountable. I have always done this and will continue to do so.

Those of us in positions of power and authority cannot say and do whatever we please without consequence. That isn’t the way any of this works. Sometimes those consequences are dire and incredibly severe. We can legislate restrictions on assault style weapons and mandate background checks, but it won’t address the true issue.

If we don’t shift the tone in this country and change the rhetoric, I hate to see what will become of us as a nation. How many more lives must be lost before we realize fear and hate beget fear and hate? We must change the narrative. We must stop justifying things that don’t need to be justified and finding the angle that suits our perspective. We can agree to disagree and still extend a hand to fellow human beings. We can love our neighbors no matter how different we may be.

How many more lives must be lost before we realize each of us has to be the change? We have to do better by our own children and the youth of America. We have to be the example where we are. America has a heart problem, and it’s going to take every single decent human being to solve it.

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