Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Plea for Peaceful Language

Anyone who has ever gone toy shopping for a child quickly discovers that there are "girl toy" aisles and "boy toy" aisles. The "girl aisles" are awash in bright pinks and pastels, offering dolls and kitchen sets, while the "boy aisles" are covered in black and camouflage colors, offering cars, trucks, and "action figures".
As the mother of two boys, I've spent many hours shaking my head in disgust as I see shelf after shelf filled with violence disguised as toys for boys. There are (turn on your best over-excited announcer voice when you read these) Awesome Smashing, Crashing Hot Wheels and Matchbox car sets, MegaMorph Transformers with Realistic Bazooka Blasters, Ultra Long Range Nerf Bombers with Ammo Boosters, and the list goes on and on. Now, for the record, none of these toy names are real - I've made them all up - but they do represent the kinds of toys our children are playing with.

I've had a tough ban on violence in our home, and I have to tell you, it's getting harder and harder to enforce as the years roll by. Why is that? It's because violence is all around in and day out, and I think we've become very blase about it. In fact, I suspect that we're not even consciously aware of most of what we say and hear.

Look at the language, the words and phrases we use everyday. We're fighting crime, fighting hunger, fighting disease, fighting for our rights, fighting against injustice, and fighting to get our economy back on track. When we're not fighting, we're battling. We all have loved ones who are battling cancer, we're battling the bulge, and battling unemployment. When we're not fighting or battling, we're in an all out war. We have the war on terrorism, the war on drugs, and we're waging two real life wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - wars that are taking the very real lives and very real limbs of our country's young men and women.

Is it any wonder that the hottest video game for children this Holiday Season is Call of Duty: Black Ops? No, I did not make that name up - it's for real. And what's very disturbing to me is that copies of this game are flying off the shelves...into our children's hands. We're perpetuating the cycle and passing our numbness onto our little ones, and that is such a frightening notion to me.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm all for eradicating hunger, poverty, illnesses, injustice, crime, and so on. I just think it's time to shift the way we speak and think about it to a more positive, supportive, and healing vocabulary. Fighting and battling creates hatred and enemies - us against them - without any understanding or empathy, and I think everyone loses in the end. I saw a bumper sticker a while back that said something to the effect of "War doesn't prove who's right, it just shows who's left". Amen to that.

Just think for a second: have you ever seen or heard of any Spiritual Leader or Enlightened One walking around armed to the teeth? Was the Baby Jesus laid in the manger with his beloved M-80? Did the Buddha carry a bazooka? Did Gandhi have a pistol strapped to his ankle? Did Mother Theresa minister to the poor with her trusty Smith and Wesson? No! The very thought is ludicrous.

If we are to follow in the footsteps of those we hold up as Spiritual role models, we need to begin by changing our language and the way we think about our problems. It's not really as hard as it sounds. Instead of fighting cancer, we can Race for the Cure. The same is true for any cause, whether it's medical, political, social, economic, whatever. Leave the negativity behind and move forward, towards the positive. Research and find the root causes. Provide treatment and promote healing. Explore alternatives. Be open to new ideas and ancient healing practices. Share. Talk. Listen. Understand. Learn. Try. But, for heaven's sake, please let's stop fighting all the time.

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