Words Matter

Words Matter

By Siegrid Raible

On January 15, 2018 we honored the life and work of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I attended a church service both to celebrate Dr. King’s life and also to share with members of the church the deep concern we had for a fellow church member who had been detained by ICE. On the Thursday before the holiday weekend the 45th president of the United States met with members of the Senate and House of Representatives to review a bipartisan proposal to reform this nation’s immigration policy. At that meeting the president uttered a vulgar word to describe various nations whose citizens were accordingly not worthy of immigrating to the United States. Words matter.

Words matter because they form the content of what you or I, Rev. King or the president want to convey. The words will be different whether we wish to sow a message of hope and fairness or discord and conflict.

Dr. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, the day after delivering a speech to people gathered at the Bishop Charles Mason Temple Church of God in Memphis, Tennessee. The speech as much a sermon as a rallying cry was directed to those gathered in Memphis for a scheduled march for economic justice; a call to action as timely today as when it was delivered fifty years ago. He asked those in attendance to not “curse and go around acting bad with our words. We don’t need bricks or bottles.” Nothing would be gained through angry words or violent action. Instead he wisely proposed boycotting those businesses and corporations which did not treat its workers fairly. Words matter.

Rev. King called for unity; he called for peaceful, non-violent protest. He called on poor people to act with their wallets. The president sows discord when he chooses words that denigrate other nations. By using provocative words the president has succeeded in shifting the focus away from a serious discussion of what this nation’s immigration policy ought to be and, therefore, how millions of Americans should be treated.

We are living in what Rev. King called a “great period of history.” His quest for civil rights and social and economic justice continues. The issue facing Americans at this moment is immigration. The question:  How should we address the standing of the millions of undocumented immigrants who call America home and the thousands who wish to come to our shores?

We must remember above all else that these are our fellow human beings deserving our respect.  Our elected lawmakers will be enacting laws which will affect the lives of millions of people. We can disagree respectfully. We should not be disrespectful. Let us urge our representatives to use language constructively because words matter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *