A while back this blog became infested with a ton of spam comments. So I stopped for a bit with every intention of starting again. But then there was some other shiny thing that caught my attention and the idea of writing a weekly blog just faded away. In the past month three people have mentioned my long-lapsed blog. Thank you three wonderful people. Hopefully there will be more readers, but for now, I write for the three.
I am a reader of books, a writer of lyrics. Words matter. Language matters. Please let me be right about that.
I was walking through a parking lot back to my car and passed a three year old girl. She was wearing a flowery dress, striped tights, bright sneakers. I smiled at her and that was all the invitation she needed. She wondered why I had parked so far back in the lot. I explained that I felt quite lucky to be able to enjoy the longer walk on such a beautiful day. Her expression was half smile and half disappointment as she told me that was what her mom said. Mom smiled. “Are you a hippie?” the girl asked. I laughed a little, “yes, are you?” She shrugged, “I guess.” I gave her an enthusiastic grin, “excellent!” She smiled. Mom smiled.
On the way home it occurred to me that someone had likely referred to them as hippies in derogatory way. My own definition of the term has been a little mixed, but now it has a good connotation for me. I probably would have called the girl’s parents hippies based on their attire, bumper stickers, and fondness for the back of the parking lot. I would have said it with kindness. But someone had taken that word from this young girl and given it a different meaning.
At a recent show a man introduced himself, complimented our music. He was a self-described conservative christian and he remarked that he was probably the only one in our audience. He was probably right. We had a nice chat, so many things to talk about, so much common ground. Really. Christianity was his moral compass, and that, he said, directed his conservatism. While he wanted others to follow in his beliefs, he felt strongly that loving other people with respect and without judgment was the only christian way to spread his message. He did not appreciate that his adjectives had been taken by those whose values did not include the most important christian value – love. I could relate to his feelings. There are some people who call me a liberal as if its an insult, and there are some liberals who have some of the most intolerant views I can image.
When did we start using these adjectives to label people so narrowly? How did these wonderful, descriptive words become weapons to intentionally create divisions and build stereotypes? I wanted my adjectives back. I wanted our collective speech to be more inclusive, less hateful. I want a three year old to feel good about who ever she is. I swore to undertake this in my own words and use of language.
And then, Ted Cruz announced his presidential candidacy. Why must the universe test me. Many mean-spirited, sophomoric adjectives filled my brain. They came very close to seeping from my brain through my fingertips and out into the world. They were really funny. The universe must hate me. I took a breath. I thought of my new conservative-christian friend and the three year old potential hippie. I don’t want Ted Cruz to be our next president. To be honest I would rather he was not a candidate sharing his views. I think his economic ideas are short-sighted and bad for the nation. I don’t believe he will be respected by foreign leaders. I think he will create more division among the people of our country. You see, I can use words and language to express my point of view without personally insulting anyone or labeling and stereotyping large groups of people. It is not as fun. It is not as funny. But I can work on that.
Words matter. Language matters. We need to learn how to talk with each other again. We need to take back our adjectives.