The Power of Words

Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it.” – Albus Dumbledore
I heard this quote a couple of weeks ago when I was re-watching Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and I knew I loved it and had to use it. I just wasn’t sure when or in what context. I do now.
A lot has happened, not just in the world, but in my little world. Free speech has become a focal point of conversation and not just in the verbal sense, but more in the written form of expression. Opinions, good or bad, warranted or totally off-colour, have been splashed all over the place. It’s as if people have lost all sense of common sense and simply spew whatever the hell they want and hide behind the phrase ‘Je Suis Charlie’. It’s like if you spread that phrase, it covers you from any backlash that may come your way. I disagree. There remains a sense of responsibility when writing anything and publishing for the world to view. That responsibility lies solely on the shoulders of the creators and the publishers. There is a responsibility at its basic sense, to the intended audience of your diatribe. You are responsible for your words and expression and how to portray your opinion without slander, prejudice or discrimination. At least, that’s how I see it.
Je Suis Charlie’ has become a theme song, an anthem; almost a patriotic stance on free expression of ideas and creative thought without fear of persecution and violence. When the men and women in France were slaughtered in the name of terrorists seeking some kind of twisted ‘revenge’ for portraying caricatures of their prophet, the world stood up and raised hands in rage and ire. A horrible tragedy that only exacerbates an already tormented world. The global environment took to their pages, took to the streets and took to social media proclaiming the terrorists have crossed lines not only killing innocent people, but also in thwarting the freedoms we hold near and dear; they have killed in the name of their prophet over animated caricatures. Ones they found offensive and blasphemous. The freedom to print and write and draw our opinions and publicly display those opinions is a right to all persons in a democratic society, offensive or otherwise. The option to object to the offensive material, to demonstrate and disagree is an option these terrorists decided to ignore. Instead, they chose violence.
The world profusely declared Freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom to your opinions and views. Disagreement of those views is allowed, and welcomed. If we do not have differing opinions, we do not have valuable discussion and discourse on what is ethical and what isn’t, what is right and what is wrong and what is allowable in a civil society. Physically threatening the creators of the ideas, in the name of disagreement, is abhorrent and criminal. ‘Je Suis Charlie’ I will rant along with everyone else.
Just when I think freedom of expression has reached a valuable and justifiable position, I read an article like Pathetic in Pink. This article appeared in a local newspaper, The Northeast Avalon Times and has caused a backlash of epic proportions. Moms of little ‘white girls with blond hair and blue eyes’ everywhere, me being one of them, were appalled, disheartened and angered by the author’s words. They were spelled out paragraph after paragraph, denouncing the colour pink; the apparent ‘superiority complex’ that these little four year olds possess as they prance around in their convertible Barbie cars and princess tiaras. The author states, “I actually dislike little girls with princess wands and blonde hair. I react to them the same way I do when I turn over a log or a stone and find creepy albino bugs wriggling around underneath.” That’s right. She compared little girls to creepy albino bugs. She called the late Princess Diana a “suicidal, bulimic, pitiful, manipulative neurotic”. The late Princess publicly suffered from depression, a debilitating mental illness and the author’s description of a beloved Princess, while offensive, is ignorant as well. Princess Diana brought world-wide attention to the growing AIDS epidemic among children. Her charities continue to raise money and assist children in need in third-world countries and her memory is living on through her sons. I personally think Harry is a hoot. Not bad for a blond-haired blue eyed Princess.
After this article hit Facebook and the torrent of angered moms roared, the slightest of defenses arose, I believe from the author’s camp, saying this article was supposed to be ‘satirical’, and a column on modern parenting. I’m not laughing. Neither are a lot of other people.
Freedom of the press? This article was her opinion of how she views what she calls ‘princess girls’ and their ‘pinkness’ is repulsive to her. If she was trying to sway people to acknowledge that gender stereotyping is wrong and that children should not be compartmentalized into one single hollowed-out hole, but should be allowed to play and be who they are without prejudiced and judgment, then just say that. Why go on a journey of offensive language portraying CHILDREN as superior princess-wannabes who have ego issues and attitude problems?
I’m all for freedom to express your opinion in any form you like, but I’m also an advocate for objecting to those opinions and the freedom to disagree, peacefully. So I’m disagreeing. Strongly.
The author has refused to comment on her article and I find that disturbing. Were you aware the backlash that awaited you when you wrote this? Don’t hide behind a banner that was forged through bloodshed and say ‘Je Suis Charlie’…freedom to express my opinion. Where does the responsibility lie? Take some. When the opinion borders on language so offensive as to set off a firestorm of ire, I think that banner is waning a bit and there needs to be discussion. From both ends.
Je Suis Charlie lives on in all forms of expression and when we disagree, we are opening dialogue, inducing change and forging freedoms for all in the future, but it also comes with a responsibility. When you use the public forum to express your opinion, be prepared to justify and clarify. Take this opportunity to attempt to explain the intent of the article, instead of letting it stew in the collective conscience. Peaceful and constructive discourse is a cornerstone of democracy and just as the author has a right to her opinion, so do the public in responding and disagreeing if they so choose. I don’t hear anyone asking for a recanting of the article nor for an apology. I hear outrage, disappointment and a defense for pink-wearing, fairy-winged blond princesses, everywhere.
Words arecapable of inflicting injury, and remedying it….”

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5 thoughts on “The Power of Words

  1. This is a powerful statement: “You are responsible for your words and expression and how to portray your opinion without slander, prejudice or discrimination.” … Yep … freedom of speech does not protect one from what results from those words. Yep … say what one wants, but that carries the burden of accepting the responsibility of outcomes.

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