Saturday, July 9, 2016

Words, Sticks and Stones...Lives Matter

It’s been a while since I have posted some thoughts into this NACWR blog. I’ve been a bit busy and many things have happened. For instance I was tenured. After several years in academics, some folks decided I was worthy of a permanent job.  My Dean at the time of tenure, Eddie Lawlor, said something like…tenure is a very unique thing, it is a contract between you and the university that guarantees employment for the rest of your working life. It is a great gift.

I agree. It is a great gift. While tenure means different things to different people, the most common understanding is that tenure means “…you can’t be fired.” Or at least a tenured person would have to basically commit a serious, on-the-job crime before being fired – and still there would be a process to determine if it impacted tenure.

An acquaintance, who has the basic understanding of tenure and who thinks on the level of an uninformed teenager, learned I got tenure while we were at a university fund raiser, surrounded by students, faculty and community folks, and stated in a loud voice, “Oh dude…you got tenure? could F@#k a student right here on this table and they could not F@#king fire you!”

Yes. Tenure can protect against poor, inappropriate, unethical, dishonorable behaviors. And it most certainly has in the past.  Anyone who uses the gift of tenure to pursue unethical actions, is…well…I’m not sure what that is.


My thoughts about tenure is more in line with its original intent, guaranteeing the right to express opinions (academic freedom) that might go against community norms or expectations.   Similar to why certain judges receive lifetime appointments/tenure – they can express their views without worry of community or political pressures.

Words are very powerful. They have the ability to influence. Why write something for the sake of nothing?

With social media it is now much easier to gather and direct a mob/movement with words. We have the ability to connect with several hundred of your closest “friends” who also have their own pod of “friends.” These eConnections allow for unmet, fragile emotional needs to be medicated with the number of “likes” clicked.

A good measure of the size of an emotional hole in someone is to count the number of social media “eFriends” one has.   

Words will never hurt me

Words [clicking “like”], have the power to heal. And the more Likes the better. The potential impact of this simple, one word, can be significant. There are other words that have the capacity of an improvised explosive device (IED).

These words are so powerful I hesitate to write them here – even with the protection of tenure!

Recently, there was a presentation delivered by a tenured professor who used a certain word (the n-word, used as to avoid the full, exact spelling word). It seems our ears are ill-equipped to deal with the n-word, than our mind, which is able to understand it fully.  

Imply the word – Yes. Speak it – Never!

Natives have their own word – the r-word. A football team in Washington DC uses this word, along with a visual. This word is the team’s brand – it’s their trademark.

There are off-limit words for other communities as well.

Please know…I am not arguing if these words should be spoken or not, I am making a case that these words have power. Perceived power for the speaker and potential harm to the hearer.

There was a saying I recall using and being used on me during my youth that goes: Sticks and stones may break my bones - but words will never hurt me.

This statement and stance is used to castrate the power from the word.  Its message is: Yes…my bones being broken would result in excruciating pain and suffering. Some injuries resulting from being battered by sticks and stones could have lifelong consequences. I could be physically and/or psychologically disabled. I could be killed as the result of your beating -- I may not ever recover.

However, your words have no consequences for me – none. 

Mother Nature designed my bone structure to break under certain physical pressures. She also designed me so that my emotional structure, is not at all impacted by words.

The emotional impact that results from a spoken word landing on my eardrum is equal to the physical impact of a butterfly landing on my forearm.

Words are not harmful as I am a strong human being and I know who I am. What you think, believe or say has no impact on me – even if it is about me. Your words have the weight and impact of butterflies. If one happens to land on me, I do not feel it. No marks…no worries.

What does worry me?

Sticks and Stones…

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