“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” goes the saying that most of us have heard innumerable times, if not uttered ourselves. Yet, this, in its very core is fake news. Whether we (conveniently/naively) like to claim that words are empty and meaningless, the truth is just the opposite. Words translate into policies, laws, and, at the daily level, body language, facial expressions, and dialogue.
My inspiration for this piece is threefold: It starts with the rhetoric coming out of the current Trump administration, mixes with the rage and sadness I feel about how the most vulnerable among us are being treated by those in authority, and ends with the rise of the Nazis in Germany.
Indeed, genocides begin with words and end in murder.
The Jewish Holocaust began with three letters strung together: pig. Jews were first called “pigs” by the Nazi party and painted as being “the other”; somehow intrinsically different than the other German citizens. The words were then transformed into laws limiting Jews’ (as well as those of the Roma, “mentally unfit”, and homosexuals’) rights and freedom. They were stripped of their ability to own businesses, marry non-Jews, and even made to change their names to be more easily identifiable as Jews. Culminating in concentration camps and the decimation of entire Jewish populations, the Holocaust was permitted to happen and millions lost their lives.
Words can empower and enlighten, or they can create borders to divide and cage bars to ensnare. I wanted to use this piece as a reminder that our words have power, tangible power. Let us not be careless with our words, lest we harm another.