Some of you may recall the old chestnut chanted around elementary schoolyards for longer than I can remember, “Sticks and stones / may break my bones / but names will never hurt me!”
What I am wondering is why we ever bought the sentiment. Because words can hurt. Words can cause great damage. Families are rendered asunder by them. Communities are diminished by them. And it would seem now that even nations can be divided in ways that we never imagined.
Name calling is something we expect from tired, hungry, maybe exasperated children. Surely, as adults, we have an arsenal of honourable, kindly, conscientious – even thought-full – words to state our case and sway our opponents or make our case.
Not so long ago, our predecessors memorized poetry to make their point, to soothe a sorrow, to cheer on their comrades. I know we don’t all have the luxury of reading and writing to build our vocabularies. I know that we don’t all have the luxury of time in which to make or state our case. I know that sometimes we may be tired, hungry and exasperated even though our childhoods are long in the past. But we do owe it to our friends, neighbours, fellow citizens to try to consider their point of view. We owe them as we do our enemies to be civil and consult with others to come to a consensus, or if not consensus, at least make compromises.
Parker Palmer speaks of coming into a circle to discuss options and voting like this. In order to “come into a circle”, it would seem that you have to be in the same room, in actual fact, or virtually as in online conference. But for very important decisions and to really know each other, it would seem that the optimum would be to be in the same room, preferably in comfy chairs in a circle with no barriers to hide behind. Indeed, Parker Palmer says that to solve a problem, we almost certainly need to engage in honest conversation in the same room. Because to do otherwise we are just “kvetching” which is just “a cheap excuse for honest engagement with whatever is troubling us.”
Yet even when making the most impactful decisions and building or tearing down relationships, it seems far more popular to spit epithets like watermelon seeds. Because, nowadays, we have Twitter so we can name call and deprecate with the protection of distance using only 147 characters. This is cowardly, true, but integrity and truth don’t necessarily enter into the algorithm.
I work with words. My name is “Carries words”, so I feel that I must speak this piece and then I will keep my peace.
Please, as we say to the toddlers and kindergartners “use your words” to solve the problems we face. Use your best and kindest words. And use those words honestly with integrity. Whether you are the Leader of a large and powerful Nation, or you are just some “ordinary Joe” like me. I make you this promise that I will do this. Will you join me?
And a PS if you can’t get into the same room, get on the phone…let your voice be heard. We all need to be a part of the democratic process…or as the Washington Post’s banner reads…”Democracy dies in darkness”.
Photo Credit: Jeff Suchak, Mythic Landscape
Good follow-up reading:
PS …I am Canadian, we spell honour, neighbour, and colour with a u.