ethel’s words

Click your browser’s “Back” button to return to SmashingIkons

WORDS: A FALSE POWER?

In the beginning there was the Word, and its magic is still with us. Words seem more feared than sticks and stones, and the most intelligent of persons are tricked into bondage by words.

Recently in Utah, USA, several police officers murdered a suspect. One of the officers was not charged as the others because he “had not used bad words” in the assault. There was some shock at this peculiar value system, but not much. It is not new.

More recently, there was a great protest against a word that has been (and is?) a tool of institutionalized oppression in the Industrial Age. That word we used rather freely in The Sixties to denote the various forms of stigmatizing war protestors; a word acceptable to use as an educational tool during that period of liberation, but that is now totally taboo--cannot even be written--during this period of fascist oppression that has shut every mouth of humanitarian protest. The N-word.

Recently, there was a big output of energy to protest the N-word. But the young men are still unjustly in prison. The young men are still denied equal pay for essential work. The young men are still looked upon with suspicion, and remain the number one (followed closely by others) victim of “profiling”.

The young women are still in despair, trying desperately to become, or seem to be, something they are not, in order to be accepted, while the reality of their strength, their spirituality, their dignified beauty, their noble history, their historic background of triumph over the worst conceivable brutality remains an epic to be told.

I am uncomfortable finding myself in disagreement with a people whose wisdom has long been a guide for me. I hope my disagreement is a query more than a statement. I do recognize the power of words: A word can start a riot, perhaps a war. But could the oppressed weaken their oppressor by calling them a bad word, or would the oppressor just laugh all the way to the bank? Chanting the word “peace”, for example, has no effect--until hundreds of thousands are in the streets chanting it together.

Ethel C. Hale