Sticks and stones may break my bones
But names can never hurt me.
Remember that old saying from when we were kids? I was reminded of it on hearing Mitt Romney's egregious comment:
"No one has ever asked me about my birth certificate".
When challenged, he and his supporters use that age-old defense: "It was a just a joke!"
But anyone who has ever been bullied, teased or verbally abused knows that names can hurt you. They may only be words but they can be weapons as surely as sticks and stones.
I read this some months ago, and it has stuck with me:
A high school teacher was leading her class in a discussion. The topic was -
Of what should we be most afraid?
The students gave their answers - “death,” “hell,” “biological warfare,” “fear” and “isolation,”. One student sat at the back of the room, hands behind his head his long legs outstretched, quietly taking it all in as he always did. He was one of the top students, and she was eager to hear what he would say. After listening to the others for a while he leaned forward and said:
"Words. Words are the power to be feared most. Every individual has an unmonitored arsenal and whether they are directed personally or internationally, words can be weapons of destruction.”
That insightful young man was Barack Obama, who would go on to become the president of the United States.
I wonder how he knew, at such a young age, the power of words to cause harm. Had he been on the receiving end of so many hurtful comments that he had already figured it out? Or was he a very sensitive, empathetic soul, who saw others being injured by cruel words? I suspect that it was both.
In any case, I am glad that he is so aware of the power of words. Because not a day goes by that he is not called some of the ugliest names in our language. I don't know how he deals with the stress of it all, but I suspect having such an amazing wife and family is the protective gear that helps to shield him from the weapons that the hateful and angry are constantly hurling at him.
And it is going to get worse over the next two months. The Republicans have nothing else to fight him with except an "unmonitored arsenal" of words. They have no policies, no plans, no way to inspire their base other than to try to cut him down with insults. They will use words like, "angry", "hater", "foreign", and worse.
If I could, I would give him these words of advice:
Be strong Mr. President, and remember that while words can be "weapons of destruction" they can also be beautiful, up-lifting and inspirational. Use the beautiful ones as your shield. Remember the words of Dr. King that you have often quoted:
"The Arc of the Moral Universe Is Long, but It Bends Toward Justice” .