One of the most important tenets of our country is freedom of speech. I wrote once about using the ‘F’ word in context, not derisively, and how, even then it shocked many people. Well, the same thing just happened to Governor Andrew Cuomo, who, in decrying discrimination, used the ‘N’ word also in context. Neither of us employed THE WORDS to discriminate but to explain how bigotry and fear affect many aspects of society.
There is no reason to ban a word if it isn’t used to disparage. Carried further, we might not allow statements other than those we believe to be spoken. I did not vote for Governor Cuomo, nor do I agree with many of his causes. However, he has every right in our fair country, to express himself, as do I. Honest debate is basic to our Founding Fathers’ beliefs. Exchanging ideas is the only real way of getting to understand another’s point of view. We must allow not only what a person says but how he chooses to say it.
The article I read had a titillating headline: “Some Criticize Cuomo for Using Racial Slur”.
Mr. Cuomo did not use a racial slur. He spoke of words demeaning to different groups in our society in order to illustrate their power and ugliness. We should be able to discern the difference between illustration and slur. If I look at you and say, “You are a …”, that’s a slur. If I use the same word to say why it shouldn’t be used, that’s an illustration.
I sometimes wonder if people really take offense to the usage of a word or if it’s an excuse to dishonor, for one’s own reasons, the user.
Words can wound and words can heal. Used correctly our alphabet comes together to describe every experienced feeling both warm and cold, soft and harsh, healing and wounding. Used judiciously the wounding parts can be excised without removing the words that caused them.
Although we are an educated society, there are always ignorant, unfeeling ones among us. They will try to undermine all the strides we make towards humanity by feeding us lies and half-truths and pushing us towards the dark side. They would not only take away our freedoms but invent reasons to do so, because language is fluid and can be used in ways to divert and confuse.
We must be on our guard to recognize when someone is toying with our senses to make us see things as they are not. Had we read only the headline I mentioned earlier without checking the article itself, it would appear that Mr. Cuomo had, indeed, uttered the censored word in a biased way.
Harry Potter once asks the question, “Aren’t newspapers there to report the news?” and is told, “No, silly, they’re there to sell themselves.” I do hope, in the real world, this is not the case; that newspapers, TV reporters, and magazines ARE there to educate and report happenings in factual and not unsavory ways; to defend the truth and keep all lines of communication open to honest discussion and debate.
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