Power of Speech
It was a most extraordinary letter, given that the word extraordinary means something which is unexpected, surprising, or astonishing. Mailed to a government body, the letter detailed how the writer thought all disabled people should be executed, put to death for no crime other than that of being different.
The letter was written in a different country but came soon after a leading political candidate in the United States mocked a disabled reporter seeking an interview. The candidate’s mocking of the disabled man went viral and most certainly was seen by the letter writer. Was this the one bit of speech that sent the letter writer over the edge in his proposing such drastic a move as to execute all disabled people?
The fact is that words have meaning. Otherwise we would call a chocolate ice cream broccoli and vice versa. When someone asked for change for a dollar in a world where words had no meaning, they might really be asking for help in escaping a burning car instead of four quarters or ten dimes or some combination of such. The power of speech is profound and should not be ignored.
Having a public platform can be a powerful drug for some. It is imperative that those with such power, especially on the world stage, use it wisely and with great forethought. There is danger is living too much in the future, in not experiencing and enjoying the here and now but when it comes to our speaking, we need to do just that. Our words often live on long after we have said or written them. Recently I received a comment on this blog from a post published a year ago. Words uttered or published are very hard to retract. Most retractions are overlooked or not believed. It is better to speak with thought and wisdom than simply put nonsense out there.
I do not think anyone took the letter seriously and that was a mistake. Yesterday the letter writer made good on his words. He went into a facility helping the disabled with a roster of over one hundred and fifty patients. Tsukui Yamayuri-en means mountain lily garden and evokes images of tranquility. At 2:10 AM yesterday morning it was anything but serene. A former employee made his way inside and attacked almost one-third of the patients and staff. Over twenty perished and another almost thirty were injured in the two hour attack before the letter writer turned himself into the authorities.
“Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is daily admission of one’s weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart.” Mahatma Gandhi knew the power of speech and used it wisely. Our words need to have a heart, need to encompass all that is good about mankind instead of being used to instill hatred and fear.
Yoko Ono once encouraged positive speech. “Try to say nothing negative about anybody for three days, for forty-five days, for three months. See what happens to your life.” Make today extraordinary by living her challenge. Let the power of your speech be a motivating factor someone’s life.