[I found this image here].
In the wake of challenging news this week, many are calling attention to speech, specifically the tone people use when they express their voices and political perspectives. But if we want to grow as a nation toward greater justice and empathy, we should call our attention to how we listen and receive people’s voices.
Are we willing to listen to one another? Most crucially, are we willing to call our attention to voices long marginalized, silenced, and targeted through systemic violence? Are we willing to encounter genuine anger about those injustices and consider our own complicity in them? Are we then willing to change those injustices with decisive action?
My concern is that people are labeling genuine and righteous anger as hatred.
This labeling process is a pretty effective way to change the narrative toward greater silencing. Civility discourse, respectability politics, and tone policing can be used to shut down and shut out empowered, angry voices. If privileged people don’t want their own privilege in systems to be challenged, just label those empowered, truthtellers as hateful. The truthtelling itself then becomes the problem rather than the injustices and pain behind very truth we desperately need to receive.
The gun violence at the Capitol baseball practice is a devastating example of trauma and terror, and I denounce it completely.
If we want to stand up against violence, and if we want to create a different kind of society, we should decry all violence, both the swift violence that targets people with weapons and the longstanding violence that targets people with policies, discrimination, segregation, and willful neglect.
So to close, I want to lift up the words of two people from Facebook posts yesterday. The first post is from Didi Delgado, and the second post is from Diana Butler Bass.
The Didi Delado says,
“You self-proclaimed pacifists—Liberals, conservatives, libertarians, and everyone in between—aren’t against violence. You’re against SWIFT violence.
Shooting someone is not ‘more’ violent than slowly killing people with racist/sexist legislation. Stabbing someone is not worse than willfully enforcing and promoting rape culture that leaves millions of women at risk. Throwing a brick is not worse than transphobic rhetoric that reinforces the notion that trans women are ‘less than’ cis women, and therefor deserving of physical violence. Mass incarceration, the death penalty, and prison labor are not less horrific than gang violence in Chicago. Depriving people access to clean water, food, and housing is not ‘better’ than mass shootings. People still die. They just die slower.
So stop implying we need to come together to stop shootings and domestic terrorism when systemic poverty and oppression are 10x more likely to result in someone’s death than a bullet to the brain. Especially when systemic poverty and oppression are usually the catalyst for shootings and domestic terrorism in the first place. I’d argue it’s more humane to attack those who are complicit in legislative, rhetorical, and other forms of ‘acceptable’ violence than to chastise them for taking action.
Stop your calls for non-violence and reassess your definition of what violence actually means. Because the numbers don’t lie. The things overwhelmingly killing and harming people are not physical acts of violence. Those are symptoms of a much bigger problem.”
Diana Butler Bass says,
“The media has decided upon a narrative.
The narrative is: Words caused the shooter to attack the Republicans. Words — the ‘toxic’ environment — are the problem.
Words are powerful. Any Christian knows that. ‘In the beginning was the Word…’ Word was present before creation. Word gives life. The Word is liberation from chaos.
But words themselves — even passionate, angry ones — are not the problem. Even angry words can give life. The Anti-Word is the problem. When words are used not to express, not to create, not to make space for justice. Like Anti-Christ, they pretend to be anointed, but they are a pale imitation of the true thing. The Anti-Word twists reality, undermines love and peace, destroys hope and possibility, colonizes and oppresses.
History is full of the Anti-Word. And the Word rose up and said, ‘No. Not this way. No. This is wrong. You are wrong. We are wrong.’ Without the freedom of the Word, the Anti-Word seduces.
Words are not the problem. The Anti-Word is the problem. And the Word must be free to speak with the full range of human emotion and power to banish the Anti-Word forever from the universe. To howl with the wind of God against the corruption of the ever-creative Word.
As soon as the narrative is ‘the problem is our words,’ that gives someone else the power to constrain, to limit the Word. We live in the Age of the Anti-Word. More Words, not fewer, are our salvation.”