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Ode to Words (Part 3): Silence

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My father taught me the value of silence. It was from him that I learned it takes more strength to hold your tongue than to loose it. Daddy was always the quiet one in our house. My mother’s voice was the dominant, reasoning soundtrack. My brothers’ voices were like murmurs on the wind .I was the noisy, unruly, talkative one. I was “like a clapper bell from hell,” my quiet father insisted.
I spent my adolescence resenting my father’s silence, my twenties and thirties trying to understand it, only to discover in my forties that daddy wasn’t intentionally silent: he only spoke the words that needed to be spoken. By the time I entered my 50s, he ended nearly every phone call with “I love you.” He used his words sparingly, saying only what needed to be said. If he told me over and over that he loved me it was because he knew I needed to hear he loved me.
For me, noisy kid that I was, my father’s silence was particularly jarring when set against my mother’s loquaciousness. Her words like foo…

Ode to Words (Part 2): Word Soup

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As I mentioned in Ode to Words (Part 1): One Line Wednesday, I recently attended a workshop on racial and gender equity. While there, and as part of the workshop, I was exposed to words that were mostly unfamiliar to me:
systemic oppression…equity-focused…gender justice lens…power imbalances…patriarchy…unpacking white privilege…micro aggressions…gender policing…monosexism…tokenism…White Fragility…intersectionality…
As I listened, perplexed, and watched others around me nodding and murmuring understanding, I felt oddly…isolated.
Have you ever played that game with yourself where you repeat a common, known, word over-and-over until it loses all meaning, all sense? Words are funny things, aren’t they? They can be powerful and meaningful—listen to any Barack Obama speech—or absurd—read any of DonaldTrump’s tweets, or heck listen to him speak extemporaneously.
systemic oppression…equity-focused…gender justice lens…power imbalances…patriarchy…unpacking white privilege…micro aggressions…gender…

Ode to Words (Part 1): One Line Wednesday

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Words, you see, are the thing.
As part of a workshop on racial and gender equity, we were divided into teams; each team was given a set of words and tasked with matching them with a set of definitions we were also given. I was unfamiliar with many of the words. One I hadn’t seen before but instantly understood was “fatphobia.” During the latter part of the exercise, each team had to share its words and definitions. Two people in the room objected to the word “fat.” They unpacked all the memories of hurt the word brought back to them. One detailed the trailing prejudice and assumptions about her health the word provoked. One of the facilitators explained that some people embrace the word as a way to rob it of its power to hurt, in much the same way some gay people have embraced the word "queer." There was mixed reaction to that. 

After the conversation went on for a while, I offered the opinion that words were just words; in and of themselves, they are harmless. They only have …