Thursday, 26 September 2019

Can We Stop Using Words As Weapons?

Words are extraordinary tools. They can inspire us or touch our hearts, mobilise us or give us pause. Lately they have been weaponized, and now we pause to consider their power.

After yesterday’s bellowing horror in the House of Commons, words have been called ‘inflammatory’ and ‘dangerous’ as debate in Britain becomes a toxic playground slanging match with shades of Lord of the Flies.

It should be laughable, but I’m not laughing.

This morning there were calls for restraint, and conciliatory words from Brendan Cox, whose late wife’s name was evoked in the heat of the row. But then it all started up again and I recalled Nicky Campbell’s recent anguish on Radio 5:

‘My head is on the desk. We have been having the same phone-in for three years.’

It is tempting to throw opinions in anger whenever Brexit comes up.

But more anger is the last thing this country needs. 

We need to hear from people who are prepared to make concessions – who are willing to consider the other side’s point of view.

Can we please stop thinking the worst of everyone? Look where that has got us!

No one is going to get 100% what they want. It isn’t possible, because our politics require negotiation, and that means both sides compromising.

I know what I wanted, but I need to let that go. I have my own red line (racism) and my own worries (that the vulnerable will suffer).

But I want a peaceful solution more than I want what I voted for. I want reconciliation so that we can move forward together.

I often think of a maxim used in the negotiations for the Good Friday Agreement:

If it matters to them, it matters.

Can we adopt that attitude? Can we address each other’s concerns, calmly and respectfully, instead of criticizing them?

Can we stop blaming others for going overboard and get back in the boat ourselves?

This is my cry from the heart of a wordsmith:

Can we dial down the hyperbole and find words of peace?