Words. Powerful tools. 

In some ways we’re having a national debate about words, even though we may not be couching it in those particular terms. 

We take words for granted because they are such a part of our everyday life. Whether words we speak, hear, or read we are ambling our way through the day and our lives by using words to communicate our thoughts, desires, dreams, feelings, views and how we wish the world was oriented. 

Words are humans’ most powerful ability that separates us from other species. It’s unfortunate we are less careful or deliberate in what and how we wish to communicate.

The individual who carried out the mass shooting in El Paso admitted words expressing certain ideas that were spoken by another moved him to violence toward a different ethnic group. We’ve seen this before when various manifestos are written, cited and executed that are following the teachings – words – of others.  

We’re debating the meaning of words today that most of us thought were already well defined. We’re debating whether we can bifurcate our views about ideas and people.  We’re debating the multiple, incongruent facets we flawed Homo sapiens possess. 

If we like one person for one reason, does it mean we also like everything they say and do? 

If anyone is a member of a family or has a group of friends, we know that human foibles are things that come with the package. But, do we passively accept words, actions, behaviors of people we care about that go against all we believe or hold to be acceptable? 

That seems to be the more difficult discussion we’re embarking upon these days.  

Words are powerful. We’ve seen civilizations begin and end because of words. Words debated and agreed upon more than 200 years ago are a daily topic for the breakfast table and the courts. 

Love and hatred are based on words that become articulated; and, more importantly, felt inside our own mind and hearts. Song lyrics can move us to tears or laughter. 

Our first learning experience as newborns is to hear the words, and the tone, spoken by our parents and loved ones. We learn by hearing words. Sometimes those words are loving; unfortunately, sometimes those words are damaging.  

We have been fortunate to have the opportunity to see the power of words used for both evil intent and well as the intent to unite and heal. We have a plethora of history behind us to know that words used to incite hatred or grievance never ends well.  

The question before us is why do we have to be taught that lesson over and over again, at the cost we now face? We probably need to ask ourselves which words motivate us: those that are based on anger/hate or compassion/love. 

As a people we have reached a crossroads. Will we choose words that abet fear, fostering anger and hate, or accept the discomfort of the unknown by embracing words that allow compassion and understanding, even with the inherent risks caring brings?  

“All I need is a sheet of paper and something to write with, and then I can turn the world upside down,” –Friedrich Nietzsche

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