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Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Words Matter

Authors aren't supposed to talk politics. It polarizes their readership and disillusions the reader who does not agree with their favorite author. Today's post is not about policies or economics, Trump or Clinton, conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat, a two-party system or third party candidates, building walls or tearing them down, it is about the power of words.

I am an author. Words matter. Full stop.

I could end it there, and it would be enough. Yet, in a presidential campaign filled with some of the most vile and atrocious rhetoric I have ever had the displeasure to experience, I am burdened my a deep pain and sadness for America.

The race to the White House has divided an already fractured country. It has allowed words to become meaningless in the face of malcontent. If the goal is to bring about change, then the bringer of the rain can do anything, say anything, blame anyone for the sake of running into the sun, of reaching the finish line. And that includes crossing any and all lines of propriety, decency, or truth. In true Machiavellian fashion, "the ends justify the means."

Yet, the problem with such a perspective is it neglects to understand and appreciate the true power of words. No offense to my first grade teacher who said, "sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me," but that's a load of crap. Words hurt. A lot.

When the leaders of your country tell you that your life doesn't matter, when groups that have been marginalized for centuries in this country, and millenniums worldwide, are called out for being "the problem," we create a society of homogeneous thinking in a diverse community. We allow racism, sexism, misogyny, xenophobia, discrimination, and the like. In a word, we allow prejudice to reign.

Words matter.

Verbal abuse, bullying, trash talking, and inflammatory language aren't a simple problem of miscommunication. They aren't the antithesis of political correctness. They lead to action and reaction. They incite fear, shame, grief, and anger. They victimize the vulnerable. They destroy self-worth, self-esteem, and overall psychological health. They promote aggression and violence. They are the starting point of the battle, the warfare, the hate.

Words matter.

When I look into the eyes of the many children, teenagers, and yes, adults too, in my life today, I am reminded of the power of words. Their sadness reflects my own, because no matter who became president, the words left in the wake of this election remain. The hurts inflicted upon my loved ones from these awful yet powerful words hits me in the heart.

Words matter.

As the country moves forward, and hopefully, finds a way to heal the bottomless rifts, I hope we remember this election. I beg us all to never forget the power of words and where they lead. Words are not empty. Words are not meaningless. Words are not merely the realm of the scholar, or the salesman, or dare I say it, the author. Words belong to us all. They are what makes us different from other living creatures around the globe. They are the way we communicate and navigate our world. They make us better. They make us unique. They make us human.

Words, my friends, words matter.