In Lay Terms

Random Ramblings From a Church Nerd

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Choosing Our Words Carefully

Recently, I was on a panel at the college where I work. We are going to talk about our impressions of how GLBT life is at our college. As we introduced ourselves, one of the questions was, "How are you feeling right now?" I responded that I was a bit apprehensive. I'm not scared to talk in front of people, but I understood that I would be giving some evaluative comments about our college. What I said could really be taken seriously. I told people that I wanted to choose my words carefully, since I was speaking in such a public role.

I realized this morning how important it is to be using our public voice as carefully as possible. I am loosely following the reaction to Don Imus, the shock-jock, who made racially and sexually offensive comments about the Rutger's womens basketball team. His radio show seems to be in jeopardy, as it has lost sponsors and a television broadcast. His troubles seem a bit justified.

To be perfectly honest, I didn't even know who Don Imus was until this story broke. However, Don is just the latest example of people using their public voices without any regard of what they are saying. It's not just the shock-jock folks who are doing it. Michael Richards had a racial tyrade that landed him in a heap of trouble. Isaiah Washington has had to apologize for introducing us to the new "F" word. The list goes on and on.

It seems that there is too much abuse of our public voice. Instead of analyzing issues, and presenting arguments, we have been reduced to insulting anyone who happens to disagree with us. There is very little critical thought put into the words that we hear on the airwaves. The talk just gets meaner and meaner until we have hit a breaking point.

Have we hit that braking point? I'm not sure, but I hope so.

We need to choose our words more carefully. Can we get back to civil discourse? Can we look at the issues and problems that our country faces and really try to present the best argument without insulting our opponent? Can we stop using our public voices to say the most offensive thing possible?

Some of these folks, like Michael Richards and Isaiah Washington have made public apology and attempted to educate themselves about the people they insulted. However, it's not worth anything unless it changes what we hear.

Paul writes, "All things are lawful, but not all things are beneficial." This is also true of free speech. Just because we can say something means that we should say something. This is also Luther's understanding of the commandment against bearing false witness. We are to interpret our neighbor's words and actions in the best possible way.

Let's make our media voices understand this.


Blogger Scott Alan said...

I was at a meeting last night where a participant went on for several minutes on a topic about which she had little direct or useful knowledge to share. It was painful, even more so because I know I suffer from the same tendencies. Logorrhea, I believe it's called: diarrhea of the mouth.

"Just because we can say something doesn't mean we should say something." Brilliant. I'll remember it. It is, as my beloved Dr. Paulson would say, a beautiful, pithy statement. :-)

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