Written in 2010, and sadly, way more relevant today than it was then.
One night at dinner, my 7 year old daughter was telling us the rules
of her classroom, and my husband and I sat with attention as she told
us, "we're not allowed to say all the bad words. You know, like the 's'
"The 's' word?" my husband asked almost afraid to hear the answer.
She leaned in and whispered, "stupid."
After recovering from what I thought was going to be a moment of shattering
innocence, I thought about the ‘s’ word and why it was ban in her
classroom. This ‘s’ word is one of the worst! Way worse in intent and
impact then the meaningless profanities I was so afraid she was
beginning to learn.
Adults could take a cue from my daughter’s
teacher in the rules we follow in everyday conversation. The news and
the political conversations that grow out of the news throw around the
‘s’ word or one of its close cousins on a daily basis. We shamelessly
belittle public figures and those who follow them, if they are on the
other side of whatever we’re talking about.
The 's' word
takes us smack in the middle of the "us against them" mentality. We
build these imaginary fences that divide us into different groups: those
that know what’s going on and those that are stupid and misled. These
fences grow higher and higher, and those that feel cut out of a
conversation form more passionate conversations among themselves.
And these divides breed ignorance.
This attitude of “us and them” is so prevalent in American politics, and
it isolates viewpoints by silencing critical debate that could help us
see all aspects of a problem. Debates can go on without antagonizing those with
different beliefs and values. Through the health care issue, we see how
this “us and them” mentality is destroying our ability to problem solve
as a community, and as ever greater problems come up for resolution,
this lack of peaceful communication could have much greater consequences
than ever before.
As I see it, we are seeing more and more of a disturbing mob rule sort-of environment. The group someone stands with seems to have a lot more to do with their stance on an issue than that individual's discernment and attempt to understand the different sides of an issue. I fear that this has us heading down a slippery slope towards a dangerously divided country.
A big thing that I think we can all do to build a more peaceful dialogue and world is so simple: if only we can just really follow that
rule of my daughter’s elementary school classroom about not using the "s" word. If we refrained from this in our speech and spirit, I truly believe it would make a world of difference.