In the Beginning was the Word

vocabWith the rise of social media, I’ve become concerned about the disregard for grammar and language exhibited by many Americans. Although spell check is possible with the push of a button, many posts and tweets are thrust into the public eye with glaring errors.

These people are not embarrassed by their inability to demonstrate basic fifth grade language skills;  in fact, they often mock those who do. I’ve read posts about ‘grammar nazis’ and how they need to just be quiet, because grammar and spelling are not necessary in today’s society.

This morning I came across this, written by Madeleine L’Engle in the late 1970’s:

“If our vocabulary dwindles to a few shopworn words, we are setting ourselves up for takeover by a dictator. When language becomes exhausted, our freedom dwindles – we cannot think; we do not recognize danger; injustice strikes us as no more than ‘the way things are.’ ” (from Walking on Water – reflections on faith and art.)

I was stunned, because she is describing the exact situation facing America today.

Thoughtful discourse has been replaced with a few memes. Citizens are being fed a diet of words like ‘libtard’ and ‘bonespur’. People have fed for twenty years (or more) on this thought-shrinking diet and now espouse mindsets that are more evocative of Brave New World than the Declaration of Independence.

Have we become inured to danger and injustice? The Black Lives Matter movement says we have. The #metoo movement proclaims the same. And the proliferation of mass shootings in our country, coupled with the unwillingness of politicians to do anything substantive to protect America’s children and citizens, trumpets this most loudly of all.

“That’s the way things are” is a lie. It is a lie promulgated by those who would see people diminished, enslaved by an ideology that co-opts our ability to think and replaces it with a focus on minutia. If we are kept occupied by patriotic-sounding repeating loops about second amendment ‘rights’, we will not look up and see our country slipping away to a few powerful men. If we are kept focused on tweets and antics, we will not notice the laws passed that are the real threats to our freedom.

Most heinous, to me, are those who use Christianity as a tool in this sneaky takeover. That’s NOT what Jesus came for. That’s NOT what Jesus said. He did not say, “Well, that’s just how things are. We have to work with what we have, you know.” He did not say, “That’s what the religious rules are, so let’s not be rude or step on toes,” or “That’s what Caesar says, so we should just get behind him and give him a chance.” No, he shook up the status quo. He spoke against corruption and the abuses of power by both religious and political leaders.

What he did say was, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Freedom begins with having enough words to advocate for ourselves and for others: for the poor, the sick, the hungry, the homeless. This is what Jesus did.

Words are so important that Jesus was called the Word. “In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God. And the Word was God.”

Words matter. Being able to articulate our thoughts isn’t an act of snobbery. It’s an act of defiance as bold as our forefathers who proclaimed life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The real battle isn’t being fought with guns, it’s being fought with words, and THAT’S where we need to armor up.

We must break free from the fog of small-thought rhetoric, and arm ourselves by reading broadly. Forget Fox News and News & Guts. Forget Blue Nation and Red Nation. Read the works of great thinkers, past and present. Read literature and biography and philosophy. We must expand our vocabularies and our ability to effectively express ourselves. We need more words in our arsenal, because with more words comes the ability for more thought. And with more thought comes less delusion, less ability to be swayed by the power mongers who RIGHT THIS MOMENT are making their play to take over our country, and to remake our values into a mockery of their original meaning.

Do we want to stop violence and injustice? Then we must read. Read everything, not just what has been selected for us by our religious or political pundits. If we read, we will expand our vocabulary and our understanding. We will be less likely to be duped by the rhetoric of those who are actively enslaving us for their own selfish purposes.

Do you think I’m overstating the case? Then prove me wrong. Read. Learn. Expand your vocabulary, leave memes behind, and articulate my error to me.

I feel confident about my challenge. I believe that if people venture beyond the borders of their pundit-fed mindset, there will be few who come take me on.

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