Words of War

As a writer, I’m supposed to love words. Every single one of them, even if they’re offensive. In fact, offensive words require more protection than those that don’t. If we erase offensive words (which are in constant flux anyway. What wasn’t offensive yesterday can be offensive today), we erase what makes us human, both the icky and the beautiful. After all, if we don’t acknowledge that which makes us evil, we can never change and bring about good.

Yet I am as human as the next person. While I can’t think of a word I hate, there are many phrases I do hate. Some of them are due to overuse, clichés if you will. I am guilty of using them as much as the next guy, but I find we use them because it’s more of a habit which requires little to no critical thought. A verbal knee-jerk reaction – to use a cliché.

One particular cliché raises my hackles every time: I’m entitled to my opinion.

I have and never will tell anyone they are not entitled to their opinion, let alone try to take away their ability to express it. Admittedly, some of my statements can be inferred that way, but is that my fault, or the reader’s? Maybe both, but this entry is to explain why, just because someone infers that I don’t want them to speak out, in my case it’s never implied. I will always welcome opposing views, because whatever the subject matter, at least it’s an opportunity to learn something new – and I could very well be wrong in my suppositions. Like I’ve said before, better to be wrong for a moment than be wrong for a lifetime.

I also think people use that statement as a way of shutting the door on a conversation or debate. It’s understandable, granted. Sometimes we don’t want to engage in debate. We simply want to express our view and walk away.

However, when we do it on a public forum, we have to expect others want to – and will – respond. That’s why it’s called social media.

Freedom of expression is a swinging doorway. It means that while people have the right to express themselves, other people with differing views also have the right to respond.

When someone says, “I’m entitled to my opinion,” for me, it’s attempting to shut that door and lock it, or make it swing only one way, so people on the other side can’t get in. Now if they want to say, “We’ll have to agree to disagree,” or, “I understand your opinion, but I don’t share it,” or some other variation thereof, that’s different. While both effectively end debate, it’s not telling the other person to shut up, as if their opinion has lesser value because it’s different.

It’s my love of words that makes me so sensitive with how they’re structured and used. Words can be weapons that hurt and destroy as easily as they heal, inspire, and encourage. Like a loaded firearm, we need to be eternally aware and vigilant on how we wield them.

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