THIS I BELIEVE
I believe in the power of words, whether fabulous flight of freedom or tragically trapped in reality, whether lost on a lark or condemned to consciousness. I believe words can inspire reason or riot, love or loathing. Words can be gossamer wings into a lover heart or a nuclear bomb into an enemy’s soul.
I’ve been called the n-word 3 different times by complete strangers and each time it felt like a sledgehammer to my heart. I’ve never called or been called the n-word by a friend. I’ve been called the d-word in reference to my sexual orientation twice in anger. And even though the word came in to my vernacular as a positive word used by women to empower gay women, as in The Dyke March referencing when tens of thousands of women march to take back the night the Saturday before The Gay Pride parade, still, the d-word, when used in anger hurt me. And yes I said gay women, not lesbian, because even though I am a lesbian, gay sounds more festive and lesbian sounds, somehow, like less than a being. I’ve never been called the c-word in reference to my gender and I’ve never called anyone else that either. I’ve never used the k-word for Jews or the r-word for the mentally challenged.
I’ve been slapped across the face with a negative word and I know the pain it causes, so I choose not to do that to someone else. Hurling words carelessly can hurt people as Mel Gibson, Michael Richards and Isaiah Washington found out. Maybe, they never had a word slammed into their soul so hard that they wondered for days why someone would hurt them like that or maybe they knew and wanted to cause that pain. Either way, once the bomb drops you can’t stop it from exploding.
I believe that whether we use the n-word, like a rapper or Lenny Bruce, or whether we sign a treaty to never use any of these words, like a nuclear bomb, they will still exist. And whenever there’s a stranger who gets angry, frustrated and loses all words, when that someone loses their humor and their mind they will drop these words, exploding the conversation and ending the war. These words, the n-word, the c-word, the d-word, etc. have power because they are used against the unempowered. Since the most empowered group of us all doesn’t have an insult word they fear, they will never truly understand the soul-wretching ache these words can cause when thrown unnecessarily into an argument.
Incidentally, I’ve been told I love you, by my family, my life-partner and my friends, more times than I can count and I’ve said it just as many times, if not more, and it still warms my heart and lifts my spirit every time. And that I believe is the power of words.
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