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  • Writer's pictureJayna Newbold

Pen vs. Sword

Dear Hearts: In light of recent occurrences in our country [USA] - which, actually, are not that recent as the layers and layers of issues reach back to well before the states became what it is today - I have pondered the following 1839 quote by English author, Edward Bulwer-Litton:

“The pen is mightier than the sword.”

. . ..indicating that communication (particularly written language) - or in some interpretations, administrative power or advocacy of an independent press - is a more effective tool than direct violence.

As an author and an individual who leans in the direction of pacifism, this Happy Heart Writer is definitely in favor of the pen. I would love to believe that words alone could save the world from further ills. After all, words are powerful! It is why civilized people utilize precious resources to educate themselves; to ensure perfunctory effectiveness in communication. Even folks who are not as well-versed in the English language make an effort, if only to create their own subset of words which carry weighted meaning within their circles.

As a student of linguistics in a post graduate certificate program, I spend a great deal of time wrapping my noodle around anthropological studies, origin of language, and of course, symbols and sounds attached to the latter. The subject is mind-bogglingly stratified, as are social issues attached to languages.

In short: Words Matter.

Language is used to persuade a person to buy something, to receive medical treatment, to believe in a religion or creed, or marry someone - all whether they need to or not. It is, indeed, powerful. A sword - if you will. . . to which everyone listens when properly used. Ancient religious texts detail the standards by which many of us live our lives: Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Rastafarianism, and so on.

However, what happens in our society when the pen fails to do its job? Perhaps the written word isn’t as powerful as we think?

Take social media, for example. Post a meme on a controversial topic, then sit back and watch the avalanche of comments instantly flood the page. Opinions, so-called facts, links to articles, and fake news can’t be posted fast enough. Even from people you don’t know!

Humans will hurriedly post without reading or at least digesting what was written above his or her comment. Pieces of the truth are expressed. But it’s like the proverbial seven blind men with the elephant as participants will vehemently argue over whether the creature is a tail, a leg, a trunk, his fault, her fault, their fault, our fault. They simply want to state their opinion and / or argue, then move on.

Consequently, nothing is solved. Folks are angry. No one on the post has listened, and all you have to show for it is a page full of words and high blood pressure. Not much power there.

And . . .I can absolutely guarantee that when a person or group of people have endured mistreatment long enough, have expressed their unhappiness and disdain in varying forms of artful expression - including painting, music, and the written word, sometimes in a court of law - but to no avail, they eventually will resort to violence at some point. It is history-repeating-itself-in-the-making.

Once again, no one listens. Fight or flight is the predictable human condition when we are up against a Goliath. We will fight with our words and other forms of peaceful expression for only so long . . .

. . . and then, the pen becomes the sword - as in violence.

Looting occurs, storming a city takes place, things get ugly. And we are left scratching our heads, wondering what’s wrong with “those people”?

Do we condone such behavior? Absolutely not. There is a reason the United States’ policy declares: “We do not negotiate with terrorists.” Period.

Yet, the last few words - powerful words - of our country’s pledge of allegiance are “. . . one nation, indivisible, with liberty, and justice for all.”

But for those who continue not to be heard, truth be told, their ink is used up. They are exhausted from talking, repeatedly expressing frustration with regard to injustice - to which they feel no one listens.

Nothing changes.

People unnecessarily suffer.

Consequently, no solid solutions are created. They are still mistreated and even worse, are told it is their fault or their character is under scrutiny. Although not averse to joining forces to dig deep and wade through the layers of muddy emotions and language to absolute truths - quite the opposite - their frustration level has reached a point where they realize the pen does not work. Words fall on deaf ears for the umpteenth time.

So they pick up a sword. And they fight. With whatever means necessary. Fair or not fair. Right or wrong. They have arrived way past these destination points.

The sword cuts. And slashes. It harms. The way the unheard have been harmed. Only this is defense. Not offense. They simply are no longer taking it.

And people bleed - including the innocent as the sword is no respecter of persons which brings collateral damage along with its targeted enemy. It is painful.

So much more painful for a relationship, a friend, a child, a country . . .than simply silencing oneself and listening to the pen in the first place.

Is the pen mightier than the sword? I certainly wish it to be so.

However, it is up to us to choose, Dear Hearts.

Listen . . .and choose wisely.

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