Posted in A Day In the Life

What We Say and How We Say It, Matters

The courage to speak out is not reserved for leaders and warriors, business people or celebrity. Sometimes the message comes from a common individual, who is willing to push back against the norm to shed light on what is wrong and troubling.

At least, that’s the pep talk I’ve been giving myself. Recently, I summoned the courage to confront someone about their hateful words. I believe in free speech, but I also believe that we should be vigilant in our businesses and organizations to encourage kind speech, and discourage hateful speech. Words can be used to communicate and uplift, or they can be used to hurt and destroy.

You don’t have to look too far in this country to see the creeping normalcy of name-calling and insults used to describe fellow humans. Worse, you don’t have to look too far to see that people will condone this kind of behavior with excuses like “he’s just passionate” or she’s just being authentic.” And what of silence and inaction? Isn’t that condoning too?

We live in coarse times where “please” and “thank you” are little remembered relics of a distant past. And what about “I’m sorry?” Does anyone pause anymore to reflect upon his or her own behavior, reconsider and apologize? It seems like doubling down is more the order of the day and that it comes with no regard for conscience. I don’t know how I would have celebrated 30 years of marriage without an apology readied on my lips, but I digress. . .

This short piece could be about our political climate, but really it’s about a microcosm of that climate in my personal life.  Harsh and hateful language caused me  to call out someone I worked with in a volunteer organization. The words were not directed at me. They were used to describe and elderly couple who had volunteered for our organization. The couple hadn’t committed any crime other than being at the low-end of the economic ladder. What they were called and how they were described would cause me embarrassment to write.

In speaking up I realized that I was not going to be able to rise to the occasion of the organization’s mission being more important to me than basic human decency, so I left. I quit. And it’s in the aftermath of my decision of doing what I believed was the right thing, that I now grieve the loss that comes with such a choice.

Courage is not born of emotional or physical strength. It’s often demonstrated in the throes of fear. It includes the element of loss, because speaking out for what you believe sometimes leaves little choice but to separate yourself from the offender.  I believe that words have power and that how we speak to each other determines the quality of our society. I am not without a stain in my interaction with the person who used such hateful language. In a moment of shock, I told him that he should be ashamed of himself. There was undoubtedly a better way that I could have handled it, and for that I am sorry. When I look back, however, I wonder if any word choice would have caused him to pause, or if he would have doubled down anyway.

When did we become so inept at general kindness? When did we become so harsh in our rhetoric? Are “please” and “thank you” really dead? Do we waste our time and our breath in calling out vitriolic, hateful speech or should we simply be living by example? When are our silences about such things a wise choice and when are they complicit? And most of all, how do we nurture the collective heart of human kindness so that we stop talking like school yard bullies and start talking as if life and love mattered?

Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

Pro-Planet and Words that Have Power

iStock_000012181084XSmallOutside my windows, the west is on fire. Smoke hangs thick in the Rogue Valley. Friends and neighbors wear masks when they venture out. Below us are the fires in California, burning so hot that they create their own weather. Above us fires from central Oregon eat away at brittle terrain, battered by an ever-spreading drought. And further north Washington state burns like nobody’s business. Each time the wind shifts, choking smoke from a different direction blows into the valley where I live.

Climate change is not a possibility up the road. We are living in climate change. If you are a denier and want to get up in my face about how the climate is always changing, I can only offer you this: Our lack of conservation and egregious polluting continues to contribute to the extreme and unprecedented weather events we are experiencing, and that is the truth.

The west is getting drier and the east is getting wetter. Tornados and hurricanes are stronger, and as Bob Dylan once famously sang, “you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.” Therefore I call bullshit on any stupid politician telling me that they don’t believe in climate change. What does this new and volatile model bring, other than more instability? And I am asking that question of both climate change and our political body. Take your pick.

I was happy to see President Obama talk about climate change in Nevada yesterday. I am always happy when an elected official recognizes and offers intelligent discourse, acknowledging that our planet is sick. She has a fever and you can see it on the west coast of the country. I still hold out for action. It’s not yet too late.

So here’s my new word: Pro-planet. Words have power. We all know what “the 99%” means, not because it was defined by someone, but because our collective consciousness defined it to a point where it became a political battle cry, underscoring the chasm between our growing have and have not society.

I want a word, a word that I can hurl at politicians who want my vote. A word that defines a deeply held, moral conviction. Do not give away your vote to a single person who is not Pro-planet. We once had a proud and noble government that worked for the people. It has been slipping from our grasp for decades and not only are we paying the price, but the planet that we live on is paying a price. I only have one bullet in my arsenal and that is my vote. My vote, coupled with your vote and other votes can become stronger than money and the propaganda that money breeds.

I want a Pro-planet president and a Pro-planet congress and senate. In the meantime, the world is burning outside of my windows.

I have never asked anyone to “like” my posts or re-blog, or anything like that. But this is not about promoting my self; this is about creating a word that can grow teeth and traction. Please “like” this on WordPress, Linked-In and Facebook in order to spread the word. Please re-post my essay. Let’s see if we can collectively define a word that has the potential to instigate change. Start referring to yourself as Pro-planet.

Signing off today as Pro-planet. I love this earth and I choose to stand and be counted in that way.