Neal Boortz says that people have a right to be angry and use whatever imagery they wish as long as they do not resort to violence. Of course, there is no legal question here. Free speech is guaranteed by the first amendment to the US Constitution. But is it wise to use such imagery? I’m angry about many things in our culture and politics, but I would try not to use imagery that others can misinterpret or take literally. When we talk about targeting a political opponent with gun imagery, or taking second amendment remedies if we lose at the ballot box, or publicly describing our opponents as evil, unamerican, or alien, or musing or joking about assassinating politicians we don’t like, we have crossed the moral line.
Further, metaphors and symbols are not simply colorful ways of speaking, but the core elements of communication and expression which human beings use to articulate ideas and give voice to feeling. They express our most deeply held worldviews and values. When we use them, we are tapping into powerful currents of visceral emotion. By using war and combat imagery, we are not merely offering persuasive rhetoric, but we are appealing at a visceral level to a deep need for aggression that is latent in all us and part of the biological memory of our species. It is not surprising or unexpected that there are those who would take the metaphor literally, because the distance from violent language to violent action is not all that great.
The vast majority of us would not do so, but there are those who are disturbed or unbalanced who could well do so. Now no one has responsibility for this assassination attempt and mass murder except for Jared Lee Loughner. But what we say and do influences others, both directly and indirectly. Whatever Loughner’s particular motivations, it is unlikely that he would have acted in this way without living in a culture of violence, including violent language and symbolism.
Whether or not Loughner listened to particular radio shows, belonged to specific groups, or was conservative or liberal is not the most important factor here. What matters is that the language we use sets a tone that affects the behavior of others, especially the mentally ill and disturbed. Those of us who speak and write in public venues have a great responsibility because others are watching us and following us. Gabby Giffords understood the violent context in which she worked and many (including her) have rightly noted that “words have consequences.” Indeed they do, because they are not “merely” words, but images and symbols that connect to primal, archetypal emotions.
It is not a question of assigning blame to the right or left or to any group, but rather of understanding the context in which our politics take place. There is a sense that it is legitimate to dehumanize others by using violent metaphors about them. Those on all sides of the political spectrum have done this. We don’t need to aggravate the hostile climate further by focusing on individuals who have made poor use of language and imagery, but we simply must ask them to stop doing it.
Let’s find other words and symbolism to express our anger and frustration.
The collaboration between governments, ngo’s, and publishers is a promising development for world literature, for authors, and for publishing (via Nelson French)
This is illuminating (via Dianne Bazell): http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/29/magazine/29language-t.html
“The idea that your mother tongue shapes your experience of the world may be true after all.”
More on language study in universities: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2010/12/06/27110/. See my blog post from yesterday: http://mysticscholar.org/2010/12/05/cutting-languages-in-universities/
This is exactly the wrong direction that universities are taking. In a time when globalism is the watchword, how can universities cut language study? Doing so is obviously parochial and short-sighted. French, which is at the chopping block in many places, is the only language spoken on every continent, 119 million people speak it as their mother language, another 65 million are partly French speakers, and there are over 56 Francophone states and governments. Of course, other languages such as German, Italian, Greek, and Latin are essential for understanding who we are as human beings in the West. People who study these languages are much more likely to study other languages (Chinese, Hindi, Arabic, etc.) and be able to operate in a global environment.”
Breathing is life. Breathing is words. Conscious breathing draws us closer to creation.
Learning another language is an acting exercise. You practice feeling yourself in another’s skin and move to a new beat.
”Aleph” is a soundless Hebrew consonant. Perhaps it preceded Genesis 1:1, which is when the Kabbalists believed creation actually began–in silence before the light was scattered. The Bible actually begins with a “bet,” which is our “b” sound–the pressing and parting of lips.
Aleph-Beth (A-B): That’s how creation began. First breath,then the kiss of lips in voice, finally the universe.
Torah, which means “teaching” in Hebrew refers to (1) the first five books of the Bible, (2) the entire Bible; and (3) the whole of Jewish interpretive tradition, including the written Bible, the oral teachings, and various writings such as midrash Interpretations of biblical stories) and responsa (legal interpretations).
Recently Oxford University Press published a book, which looks of great interest. Though I have not yet read it and cannot vouch for it, the author presents a thesis that alerts us all (scholars and lay both) to the proverbial elephant in the room: B. Barry Levy, Fixing God’s Torah: The Accuracy of the Hebrew Bible Text in Jewish Law (New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001). For text critics (those who work with the original manuscripts) and those who read them, knowledge of the biblical text’s fluidity comes as no surprise. From biblical versions found at Qumran (the Dead Sea Scrolls) and from the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible), from the second century BCE to the first century CE, we know that the biblical text varied from source to source. Yet, most of us still work and study “as if” the Masoretes got it absolutely right in the Middle Ages: we have the correct text. Now Barry Levy apparently shows that the rabbis of antiquity did not even agree on the notion of an immutable text and recognized the need to “correct” the text. He provides a plethora of evidence. Wow. That’s kind of an earthquake. Even the very traditional rabbinic tradition seemingly acknowledged that the text of the Torah was not permanently fixed. Should provide for lots of lively discussion.
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