Monday, January 10, 2011

Dangers Untold, Hardships Unnumbered, Word?

What is the definition of a word? And I'm not looking for the Webster variation.

A word is a cluster of squiggly lines and curves of varying lengths.

Early in our lives we are taught that these clusters are more than just blobs of ink or pencil. They say something. This is how we communicate from one human being to the next. They say something because somewhere, at some point, someone said they did.

Then, once we learned how to say those words, we were taught that they actually meant something. When we said a word, we were not just pronouncing the sound of those combined squiggles but releasing the meanings and connotations behind those squiggles into the world. Where did those meanings come from? Somewhere, at some point, someone said those clustered squiggles meant this, that and the other thing. Being the good sheeple we are, we all nodded out heads yes and spit forth the language created for us by some dudes we don't know.

But what no one taught us is that we are gods. We are gods ruling over a language. We have the ability to give language power and life. We make it be, make it thrive, make it mutate, make it sing. But just as we have the power to give life to words, so we have the power to take it away. And while words fade from our repertoire over time, the scary ones, the ones that make us speak in whispered tones or cringe away, stay behind, haunt us. Why? We are their gods. Why do we hand these words the power to bring us to our knees?

Nigger. Spic. Gook. Wop. Slant-eye. Mick. Flip. Wetback. Cracker. Kike. Fag. Dyke.

Scary words, made scary by none other than . . .
us. Words that are much easier to leave festering under the bed like rotting pizza, their stench masked by fake odors from aerosol cans, living in a land of 'la-la-la, I can't see you so you don't exist' than being dredged out from the mess and confronted head on and purged as waste from our world. Why are more people not willing to confront these dirty words, like Sarah did to Jareth, and say, "you have no power over me?"

I know. Easier said than done. And I'm sure I'd get slapped with the "white privilege" moniker because, since I'm the color of Casper's albino cousin, my views are inherently racist because I wasn't subjected to the same setbacks as those with darker skin tones. Nevermind the wop mentioned above, or daigo, guido, guinea, dog, grease face. I'm white, so I don't know.

Do I not? Maybe. Depends on who you ask. But does it mean I can't think that searching and destroying 'nigger' and 'injun' in a classic published in 1884 and set in the deep south is a monstrosity? Am I allowed to think that act a desecration of a classic work? Because it is.

Anyone that actually believes that The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn is racist material simply because of the mere presence of the word 'nigger' is an uneducated moron. You are. Why? Because chances are you never even read the book because coming across 'nigger,' despite its context, is an affront to your person. So what do you do? You get offended. You make such a stink about it that you get the likes of Alan Gribben to publish a cannibalized version perfect for the politically correct world we live in. Nevermind that the text has now been raped of its splendor. You will no longer be offended and can safely read this masticated version of a classic safely tucked into your cocoon of happiness.

Words are powerful things. They can love as quickly as they can destroy. Our civilization as we know it is based on words. But they're only as powerful as we make them. And all of the absurdity of this misdirected power-pointing needs to stop. It's sanitizing our culture. Instead of confronting these problems head on and eradicating them, we're sweeping them under the carpet and living in ignorant bliss.

Blacking out texts is not a way to live. People deserve to be educated. Children have a right to ask questions and teachers and parents should be giving answers, not throwing blankets over their heads. No matter how much you ignore that rotting pizza under your bed, its stank will only get stronger. It won't go away. It won't disappear on its own. Ignoring it and pretending it doesn't exist is not the answer; it just furthers the problem.

It's time to remove the power from these words that hurt. We're the ones that turned that power on ourselves to begin with. So why do we keep handing the sword to the enemy with which to hurt us? It's time to grab that sword back and strike the enemy down.

If you run now, you'll be running for the rest of your life. So stop, turn around and make a stand.

You have no power over me.


Book Chick said...

Well said! I agree completely.

Rie Conley said...

Eloquently put. Overtime some words were given too much power when in fact the intentions behind those words should be more at issue.

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