"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me"
The above saying is often cited as a rebuff to teasing or bullying by parents and teachers for anyone on the sharp end of such behaviour. I remember my teacher saying it to me at Primary school and if you are of a certain generation then it's likely it's been said to you as well.The thing is, it's not true. Words do hurt. They do leave scars and some remain for a long time. The words we use as a form of put down or insult do not even have to be swear words and some words can be fairly innocent in one context but hurtful in another. Language, the words we use are being used more often today as arrows and ammunition to attack those whom we disagree with. I think this is particularly true in the public places we occupy and the weaponising of language is used regularly in the political spheres.
Earlier in the summer we had the opportunity to see live one of our favourite bands, Switchfoot. They are an American band orginating from the West Coast of USA and sadly get little airplay in the UK. The reason we like their music is that their songs are filled with hope, deal with the darkness in life and often point to another way. Their songs have been the soundtrack to my life in recent years and helped me through some really difficult situations but are equally good played loudly through the car stereo. One of their more recent tracks contains (see the youtube link above) the following lyrics:
"Sing to me, baby, in your native tongue
Sing the words of the wise and the young
Show me the place where your words come from
Love is the language, love is your native tongue"
The song reflects the idea of another hero of mine, Dr Martin Luther King who spoke often about the fact that we are born already pre-programmed to love and hate was something we learnt along the way. Hate is not part of our natural DNA Dr King would say, love is our birth language, our native tongue.
Watching the TV where political figures and others use language to score points off those who they disagree with has left me feeling a sense of deep sadness. There has to be another way to debate, to disagree without using our words to hurt and tear others down. I am left asking the question to how we can re-capture our native tongue and begin to use words that build up, that offer hope rather than wounding and tearing down others? It's a conversation I'm ready to be part of, are you?