Once when I was asked to address a large group of women on the subject of teaching their children about sex, I used, in context, the word beginning with f and ending with k. The intake of oxygen was audible!
I told them the story of my daughter Lisa’s first day at school. She came home and asked what THAT word meant. It gave me the opportunity to teach Lisa the difference between acceptable and unacceptable; between something beautiful and something salacious; how language can be used to inform the listeners or shock them.
I was not trying to shock my audience, having used the word in context and not as an expletive, but shock them I did! This taught me that words, no matter how innocently used, can be found offensive by many in society. In colleges today students have raised objections to professors introducing subjects that might trigger negative thoughts in some their peers. They also feel that books written decades ago should be banned because their content might upset readers. In that case the Bible and Shakespeare might no longer be part of any curriculum.
I believe there should be nothing we cannot read or talk about because only through discussion can we really understand each other and begin to heal our fears. Avoidance will only exacerbate what plagues us and cause us to be more fearful. Slowly facing the trauma in our lives will teach us to accept what has been and expiate it from our beings. We will then be prepared to travel into a happier unencumbered future.
On a lighter note, sometimes what we say is heard differently by the person listening. My husband, Jason, once stopped talking to me for nearly a week. I just couldn’t understand what the problem was until he finally blurted out he didn’t think something I’d said was funny. “What did I say to offend you?” I asked. “When you were on the phone last week, and I asked who it was, you said ‘my lover’.” I DIDN’T say ‘my lover’, I said ‘my mother’! Jay was terribly contrite and embarrassed, but it was fun to tease him about it for many years!
Sometimes we do misunderstand what others are saying. Other times we misconstrue their motives. Words are very powerful. “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never harm me” is no longer true. Since the advent of the internet, many people have been victimized by other nasty negative trolls who demean innocent folk by posting accusations ‘just for the fun of it’. Perhaps that is why we have suddenly become so aware of what language can do and it causes us to fear anything we read into another’s statement.
Freedom of speech is a basic rule in our country, and a good one at that. I’m the last person to censor anyone, but I do think it is time for us to police ourselves and not permit lies and bullying to take us over. Words, whether spoken or conveyed through sign language or Braille, give us the power to communicate with each other, to understand another’s point of view, to become friends. Let’s not let a minority of sick, nasty people divide us by making us fear the spoken, written, or posted word.