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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 1/12/11

The Power of Words

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The Power of Words

It's been said that the eyes are the window to soul. I doubt it.

I don't doubt for a moment, however, that the words we speak or write convey the inner workings of our minds and hearts. There is no better way to know a person than to listen to him or her speak, to know what they read, to understand whom they admire: if you know this, you know everything that is truly important to know about a person.

Words, spoken and written, not only indicate whether a person is educated, cultured, kind or venal, they also demonstrate if thoughts are ordered and cognition is intact or impaired. The choice of words and their arrangement are used by physicians and other health experts to evaluate emotional as well as organic pathologies.

Throughout history words have had as much power as the sword. Words shape ideas and give them form; our ideas shape our deeds and give them meaning. Over two hundred years ago Edmund Burke wrote that words are an expression of our passions and have more power than any other art form. He believed words are the most powerful force on earth because they communicate ideas more effectively than any other form of expression.

Words have always been the kindling and the continued energy that fuel our actions. Revolutions have begun with words, men have been stirred to battle by words, and dictators have manipulated whole countries by words, creating the vilest justifications for the annihilation of millions. Words give testimony and sway juries and send people to their deaths.

We understand what it means to "give our word" and pledge on our honor (maybe our very souls) to speak the truth. We use words to convey our patriotism to our country and, of course, we worship our God with words, whether spoken publicly or whispered in our hearts. Words convey love and build trust. They also shape character and tender hearts; certainly we know our words shape our children and if we are wise we choose them carefully. We know our words offend and that is why we sometimes bite our tongues. We choose them well when we interview for jobs. People have been soothed and comforted by words and cautioned to exercise the angels of their better natures. Words have the power to mend and heal.

Words are so powerful that the US Supreme Court has even weighed in on their restriction -- perhaps nowhere as famously as in the case of Schenck v. US when Chief Justice Holmes emphatically stated that no one has a right to cry fire in a crowded theatre and cause panic.

Words are the most valued commodity of our species, the hallmark of our humanity, the singularly most distinct difference between man and animals. It is absolutely indisputable that words possess immeasurable power to shape individuals as well as history.

And now the very people who have used words to ridicule, distort, misguide, discredit, and defame -- the very people who have openly and gleefully demonized others, spoken freely about assassination as a political tool, even attacked the children of this country's public servants and suggested that they be destroyed to end a tainted lineage, now speciously claim that words are harmless, they have no consequence.

Words, these arrogant and shameful people (and their pathetic followers) claim, are meaningless. It is with great indignation that they purport there is absolutely no possible nexus between the deeds of others and their own spoken words. They ask us to abandon the proofs of history, the dictates of civil societies, and even the wisdom of our own grandparents and believe instead that we should not hold them accountable or call them to task.

Indeed. How curious. How convenient. How utterly cowardly.

How I am so not surprised....

Their disclaimers beg the obvious question "if words mean nothing, if words do not influence people, then why do these people speak to us at all? Why do they have rallies and radio and television shows if not to influence people?

If words mean nothing, then why the hell are they always talking or writing articles and books?

Yes, indeed: why?

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Maureen Gill is an educator, author, blogger, and public speaker known for her insightful historical analyses, biting political commentaries and riveting fiction. Maureen is an OpEd columnist at and York County Journal Tribune in (more...)
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