Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can truly hurt
by, 09-05-2013 at 04:18 PM (4073 Views)
I know, this is not how the saying goes. But it should. Recently we had a situation where someone was upset that we deleted his post because he used offensive language. Or as he said it: people say he has a potty mouth, but he sees it as just using the words of a language to express himself, and words don't hurt.
This made me reflect. That concept of 'sticks and stones' is as common as it it wrong. Yes, sticks and stones may break your bones. But that can heal. You can learn martial arts to prevent it from happening. You can prove it happened and there are ways of dealing with it, from taking revenge to lawsuits. And it is indeed correct that the word 'apple' cannot physically hurt me. However, that doesn't at all mean that words are harmless, or cannot inflict far greater damage than sticks and stones can ever do.
'Terrorist'. 'Pedophile'. 'Infidel'. 'Sinner'. 'Traitor'. 'Patriot'.
There are people abducted, tortured, imprisoned, killed because some clerk somewhere saw fit to take a handful of facts and interprets them a certain way. Whether it is true or not, whoever gets the short end of the stick can only go along for the ride, wherever it takes him. Because once the label is applied, that person loses all rights. All because of a single word.
There are teachers today who can never find work again, because someone started a whisper campaign and mentioned the word pedophile. Or maybe not even said it out loud, only implied it. Whether it is true or not, the whispers will follow that person into the grave. He may never know who started them or why. I know at least one teacher whom this happened to. In the end he was cleared and it turned out to be a case of revenge for bad grades. Too bad the whispers don't go away. My best friend is a teacher, and so afraid of this word that he takes measures to never be alone with little kids. All because of a single word.
Some terrorist organizations bomb or shoot groups of people just because their big wahoonie labeled them as un-people. Traitors deserve to be summarily executed, and partiots are beyond repoach. You can't argue with patriots because that is unpatriotic. You are not a traitor are you? Are you with them or with us? What? People? No they're not people. They're labels. See the terrorist label? Nothing to see here, just go along.
Those are just a half dozen of the words that scare me to death when used in a certain context. The true insidiousness of words like that is that they are used as labels. And human nature is such that once a label is applied, it is exceedingly hard, if not downright impossible to get rid of. This is why I always try to choose my words with care, and try to provide enough context when dealing with sensitive topics.
The pen IS mightier than the sword. The sword can kill a man; The pen may order a missile strike or approve a forced psychiatric hospitalization. Pain fades, words can linger forever. So be careful with words. And when you are here on this website interacting with people, remember that we are all people instead of labels. As long as we remember that we are talking with people, things will be allright.