A large part of reclaiming a narrative is reframing or discrediting language that historically has been used to demean certain groups and diminish their power in society. Authoritarians, especially Trump, bristle at the notion of political correctness, which is to say a call for greater sensitivity in the language one uses publicly in mixed company. And in today’s always connected and increasingly global society, there’s rarely a time when we’re not in mixed company.
As someone who orientates himself and makes sense of the world primarily through language, I consider words to be nearly sacred in their power. In my younger, more idealistic years, I attributed even greater power to them, believing to my core that a right and true combination of words could solve any predicament or right any wrong. Though I no longer believe such a romantic notion, I still believe that words, carefully chosen, have an undeniable power. Given this, one would think, even in this Land of the Free with the right to free speech enshrined in the First Amendment, that we would hold those responsible and accountable for the language they use in public discourse. To enforce such accountability, however, we must agree that language does, indeed, have power, and thus carries consequences with its use. One need only sample the vile rhetoric flatulating from the bowels of this year’s presidential election, predominantly on the Republican side where personal attacks abound and lie upon lie stands uncorrected, to see that accountability has gone out the window. The inflammatory language flung like shit by the media zoo monkeys and the politicians they cover amounts to a cacophony of noise and nonsense that only serves to isolates us from each other and tear us apart.
Celebrity deaths don’t usually move me since my connection with any famous artist that I admire is primarily through their art, which survives their death. The death of David Bowie, however, has had an effect on me that is as unusual and unique as the man himself. I can’t help but think this has every bit to do with the way he died – a process he transformed into a work of art itself – as it does with the undeniable effect his music has had on me over the years. Everybody by now is aware of the circumstances behind the recording and release of his final album, Blackstar. The fact that an album recorded so late in his musical career can be held up to any of his best albums is an astonishing feat in itself, but that he made the album while knowing, after being diagnosed with cancer, he had only eighteen months left to live is nothing short of awe-inspiring.
As anyone with a teenager knows only too well, they can be exasperatingly obstinate creatures, but for the life of me, I can’t think of any justification for the brute force Richland County Officer Senior Deputy Ben Fields used to deal with a female student who refused to give up her cell phone or leave the classroom. The officer otherwise known by the students of Spring Valley High School as “Officer Slam” clearly lost his shit, and the force he used was all out of proportion to what the situation required.
I imagine that aliens learning about human behavior on planet Earth these days would have an extremely difficult time resolving the conflicting displays of religion. In the US recently we had a head-spinningly strange confluence of religious events between the visit of Pope Francis, with his message of love, peace, tolerance and even respect for the planet, and the gay-hating shenanigans of that near-martyred Christian Clerk from Kentucky.