Margaret Atwood wrote, “A word after a word after a word is power.” Never have I seen this more in my lifetime than in the last year and a half. Until this last few days.
I have seen and heard most of the ugliest speech our language permits traded back and forth between people during this election, and it has only intensified with the result of the election. It is true that the people of this country have spoken. So have the electors. They are not in agreement with one another, but this is just one part of the broken system that so many of us have railed against for so long. Our politicians will not fix it. Our corporations will not fix it. Why would anyone fix a system that works to their benefit? We the people alone can fix this. Not one person. Not a handful of people. All of us. And we can start by using the power of our words. Our words can be sticks, or they can be stones. Our words can build walls, or they can tear the walls down. It is up to us.
It starts with our words. We must write them to corporations. Write them to our representatives. Write them to our local businesses. Write them on our blogs and even, yes, on social media. We must write words that hold others accountable for their actions and inactions. We must write words that hold others accountable for theirs. But we must also confront them with understanding and with empathy. We must remember that if our life experiences were the same as others’ life experiences, then we would likely believe as they do. We can try to put ourselves in their shoes, no matter how bad the fit may be.
We can live our words. If we say we want a better world, then we must do something about it. If we say we want people to stop using stereotypes, then we must be aware that we use them too, and stop ourselves. If we call people names, we must stop. If we troll the Internet looking for ways to insult people or to retaliate against them, trading insult for insult, then we are to blame for the ugliness that persists.
We can be information literate. We can take the words we read and hear with an air of skepticism. We know that there are people knowingly and unknowingly spreading lies across the Internet. We know that most news reports are biased in whatever direction will earn them the highest returns. We know that there are people literally being paid to use their words to keep us divided. To keep us in fear of the other. To exploit our darker natures. To destroy our faith in our nation and in our world. We must not let them do this. We must ask questions. Check profiles. Avoid feeding the trolls. And we must use many diverse sources before forming our inner dialogue.
Finally, we must speak our words. We can stand up for those we see or hear being persecuted due to their race, their sexual orientation, their gender identity, their religion, their ethnicity, their culture, their appearance, their level of education, their citizenship status, their level of wealth, or any other superficial measure by which we build walls between us. Science tells us that we human beings are more than ninety-nine percent genetically identical. Math tells us that one percent is a very small number indeed, but it can still divide the world. We don’t need to build any more walls; we need to tear them down. Let us begin by using the power of our words.