Mask. Pandemic. Synchronous. Asynchronous. Insurrection. Fake news. Suppression. Zoom. Tweet. Uprising. This is just a portion of the new vocabulary that swirls around us in print, on our devices, through the news and in conversation 24/7. These are words that either held another meaning or words that we rarely used or heard until the past few years or in some cases, weeks.
This list makes me think of Elie Wiesel’s introduction to Night “…I knew I must bear witness. I also knew that, while I had many things to say, I did not have the words to say them. Painfully aware of my limitations, I watched helplessly as language became an obstacle. It became clear that it would be necessary to invent a new language. But how was one to rehabilitate and transform words betrayed and perverted by the enemy? Hunger-thirst-fear-transport-selection-fire-chimney: these words all have intrinsic meaning but in those times, they meant something else.” (p. ix)
This is not a comparison to the Holocaust. The enemy we face appears when good people stay silent and the air is choked with words of hate and exclusion and isolation and sound bites. We need to do more to understand the words and what is behind them. We too must bear witness. Words count. Words stand for something. So let us make our voices heard. Let us choose our words carefully. Let us flood the sound waves with other words; uplifting, building, inclusionary, kind words.
Let us use words like: Kindness. Respect. Virtue. Hope. Integrity. Trust. Neighbor. Investment in the future. Goodness. Diversity. Words reflect our reality. Let us use words to shape a new reality.
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