Words ≠ Weapons

I scoffed when I recently saw a leaked FBI document listing imagery of the Betsy Ross flag as a call sign for extremist militia members. I think it’s actually a call sign for American history buffs and 10-years-old school children, but I digress. Reality is bleeding over into parody.

We’ve reached the point in society where debate is considered extremist activity. A disease that spurns the cure. It’s tragic.

In a 2017 New York Times article, Feldman Barrett suggests that hateful speech is so stressful that it should be prohibited because, as she reports, chronic stress can shrink your telomeres. However, she omits an important word. High levels of perceived stress are associated with the shortening of telomeres. You and I can interact under the same circumstances and perceive the stress of that experience differently. If I think that listening to a speaker is going to be intolerable and harmful, it stands to reason that my experience will be more stressful than for the person who tells themself it will be illuminating, or an opportunity to defeat a bad idea.

Speech may be upsetting, but that doesn’t make it violence. Disagreements may be uncomfortable, but discussion and compromise are foundational to a functioning society. There are two sides to every coin and, likewise, at least two opinions on any issue. I recently saw a Twitter thread asking, “on what policy do you agree with your opposite political party on?” and it was truly eye-opening. These shared beliefs, opinions, and strategies are often masked by a low-hanging cloud of hatred and resentment.

Equating speech with violence not only robs us of our understanding of ourselves as competent and civil human beings capable of defeating bad ideas with better ones, it gives us license to use physical violence in response to speech–or even in advance, as “self-defense.”

We have the choice to enter every conversation with either an open mind and willingness to consider an alternate view, or with defenses up under the belief that we are coming up against a violent enemy. If we place the locus of control externally, we are likely to blame the outcome on fate, luck, happenstance, or the “enemy.” If we place the locus of control internally, we are likely to believe our own actions determine the outcome–our patience and understanding can lead to truth, understanding, and common ground.

The media is weaponizing words. I can’t keep up with political correctness and I gave up trying years ago. That wielding of language is destroying us. There are two resounding echo chambers, growing ever louder and further apart.

If ancient upholstery cloth–a symbol of America’s founding–is considered extremist militia paraphernalia, what’s next?

It’s important to talk about the hard things, attempt to understand one another, and work through our differences. At our core, I think all humans want safety, security, affection, and to have our basic needs met. We’ve become so entangled with symbolism and meaning that, I think, many have forgotten that were aren’t all the different at all.

5 thoughts on “Words ≠ Weapons

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  1. Extremist my foot. I prefer to fly the Cambridge Flag myself, but have always had a soft spot for Betsy and Gadsden too.

    There is so much wrong with the line of thinking that I know exactly where to begin.

    Telomeres. These clowns really would do well to leave what’s left of Science out of it. Chronic stress, is it? Shall we also discuss the chronic stress of rising cost and diminished returns? The utter lack of genuine and not artificial community? How about the stress of having to walk on eggshells counting pronouns? Making crippling rents knowing someone else from somewhere else lives rent-free? The list could very easily go on.

    My word of the month has become cherrypicking.

    Mind you, I don’t write this from a political platform. I don’t really have any prescribed economic or political solutions, other than small government and local autonomy accompanied by usury free financial obligations a là Ramsey (or anything comparable.) Which I don’t think necessitates any identitarian outlook- though I’d suggest the results would be enhanced by one. Anyway. Excuse me as I pull my thumb off the autism button.

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    1. We are on the same page, completely. Everything has become so absurd that it feels like we’re living in clown world. What a privileged life someone must live is their biggest stressor in life is being reffered to as “she” rather than “ze,” or whatever. This, while millions are living frugally and still struggling to put a roof over their heads and food on the table. Cherrypicking is spot on.

      I agree. I think the Constitution got it right and is still relevant today.

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      1. I understand you’re on the other side of the country, I’m not qualified to talk about it. But I know every region has a “style.” New England has a naturally democratic and localised structure, town meetings are still a thing, although malaise has seen them gradually diminish. Local councils, roles, etc. There was an excellent article from, I believe, Identity Dixie which listed differences between “Yankee” and Southern government. Anyway, long and short, it pays to develop an independent mindset if you can within the confines of a community. New England still has a grassroots instinct, even if its been badly co-opted. I’d love to live to see us emancipated from the Fed, but won’t hold my breath. I agree. Constitutionalism would benefit us, I’d even parlay with classical Federalism (as opposed to the Neoliberal monstrosity of today. )

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      2. “It pays to develop an independent mindset if you can within the confines of a community.” I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. A group of independent thinkers paired with a forum in which ideas can be shared is a recipe for progress and, I believe the hope and intention of our forefathers. AZ has the same grassroots instincts, but everyone wants instant gratification and can’t accept that it may take generations of effort to make tangible process. Ultimately, little gets done for this reason. Interestingly, the winners of our primaries were largely non-politicians supported by huge grassroots movements. I think, and hope, people who “aren’t interested in politics” are starting to wake up and realize participation is a necessity. I often imagine how different the country would be if Ron Paul had taken office.

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