Searching For Relevance

The Power of Words

July 20, 2019

Events of this past week have disturbed me greatly.  I say“disturbed, because it’s not anger or frustration I feel, but a deep sense of distress and disappointment as I watched crowds of people chant loudly “Send her back” in reference to four American congresswomen. As a public speaker, I am keenly aware of how words influence and excite people. For this reason, I spend hours determining what I want to say and convey, then carefully choose the words by which to say it.  Even then, misinterpretations occur and people can be hurt.  

My point is, words are powerful!  Historically, they have incited riots, brought down monarchies, and sparked revolutions.  “Remember the Alamo!”  “Give me liberty or give me death!  “Never again!” Words shape our mindset, both corporately and individually.  They can encourage acts of great good, but also fuel, unnecessary fires of anger and hate.  And in the final analysis, it doesn’t matter our original intent, only how our words are heard and applied.  Chanting “Send her back” is hurtful for many and a green light for some, who will respond toward others with words of hate, and perhaps, violence.  We already have too much random violence these days.  This has troubled me so deeply, it was difficult to wrap my arms around how I might respond in good conscience. But when I heard an interview with former Gov. Kasich of Ohio scolding clergy for their silence, I knew it was time to speak out.  

Have you ever witnessed someone tell another person to “Go back to where you came from?”  I have, at the local Publix.  It was frightening to experience as a bystander, I can’t imagine how the woman targeted by these words felt.  The fact that she was a physician was of no consequence to her antagonist, just her skin tone.  Sad! I only wonder if he had suffered a stroke in that moment (his blood pressure was high enough), would he have said the same thing, refusing her help?

This is not the first time this chant has been mouthed in our land. Those of Irish, Italian, and Japanese heritage have heard it.  My own mother, of German descent, heard it.  She still teared up, while in her 80s, recalling those occasions.    

We all came from somewhere.  Many groups celebrate their day, and why not?  People should be proud of their heritage, sharing the best of their history and culture.  After all, it is those shared cultures that have created the America we love. Personally, I like eating authentic Mexican food, while other may enjoy Italian wine and lasagna. And let’s not forget, that were it not for Von Braun, there would have been no 50th anniversary moon landing to celebrate  this week.  Unless you are a Native American, it’s hard to look at others and say, “This is not your home.”

I assure you, I do not write this out of a political persuasion or position, but with concern for our culture and its very soul.  Democracy would not be democracy without divergent opinions. We do not need to always agree, however, we do need to treat each other with respect when voicing our disagreements.  We seem to have forgotten this!  Everything is NOT POLITICAL, some things are just the right way to treat each other.

BOTTOM LINE?  This matter is not about one political party vs another, or one candidate vs any other.  This is whether we choose a future of anger and hate, or acceptance and compassion. It’s about the spirit we choose to reside at the core of our soul.

People say, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”  It’s a catchy phrase, isn’t it?  Simple to say, yet so hard to actually do. I only pray we find our way to better live out these words.

Rev. Keith A. Haemmelmann