Time to Take Back Our Words
When you look up from the depths of the Grand Canyon, all of those looking down are the same. Faces stare in awe at the majestic beauty they see, simultaneously sharing a national treasure that — even with the souvenirs and hype — still overwhelms with each visit.
Keep looking up and you begin to hear the voices. People talking, laughing, calling to friends, the canyon itself amplifying and echoing their communication. As the voices enter the vast space, all thoughts readily mix, all words are clear, all ideas are heard.
The Grand Canyon is America. Its beauty rings as our voices sing — not in dissonance, not in anger or confusion, but in joy, in concert, and in wonder at the experience we’re sharing.
Entering the echo chambers
Sadly, we drive away from the canyon and venture back to the echo chambers of our daily lives. The distance from the canyon that holds all our voices to the dissidence, the shouts in our silos, and the walls that limit our views seems to grow wider every day.
What we see in our day-to-day lives now as “polarization” didn’t just happen. Many hands with many motives dug those divides, separating us from each other by separating us from our shared experience. From our generosity toward one another. From our own values and the words we use to describe them.
Who owns words like “faith” or “freedom,” after all? Not even those who lead us to these concepts own them exclusively. Yet people in our midst take us from the place where our words mix and resonate to the place where they serve chiefly to carve out divisions. Those places echo hollowly with words used to make murky what have long been seen as the true intent and meaning of our democracy. The United States. One nation. With liberty and justice. For all.
From there, it’s easy to trick us into saying words of hate without intending to. Or encourage us to unleash words that bring temporary relief from our deepest frustrations, while doing unto others what we would never want them to do unto us.
In a nation where all rise together, where distinctions are added ingredients to the fabled American melting pot, we all are equal in the need to think for ourselves and give voice to our own truth.
Ending the power to divide
Words become weapons when they are used to divide and conquer —
an age-old strategy to keep us from trusting each other. That’s what happens when we are fed a steady diet of twisted words and scary ideas to keep us arguing with each other. While we are distracted and our fears take root, whoever started the mess gets whatever they came for — without us getting in the way.
The next thing you know, we the people have been displaced. We even call these things “movements!” Lately, too many take us from the places where we work out how to get along to the echo chambers that fear has made our only comfort zones.
Let’s get real. ”Polarization?” Let’s keep that in two places: the Arctic and Antarctica. Don’t bring it to the dinner table, the church hall, the political debate as verbal camouflage for what happens when we fall prey to the worst intentions of whoever needs to tear us apart.
Hearing what is right
Let’s call things by their true names, demanding that our leaders use words that we long to hear — and speak to actions that we long to take. We will know what is right, even if it’s painful, because it frees us to give each other more, not less, consideration. More care and compassion, more benefit of the doubt, more of the things we long to receive in turn. This is the “right thing” that we hear in the quiet dawn that speaks only to us.
The canyon is far too quiet these days. And empty. It’s time to give it our own voices again.
©2021 Women’s Campaign Fund
Women's Campaign Fund 2021
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