Words Create Worlds.9 – Death & Life are in the Power of the Tongue

Well – that is what we’ve been warning you about.

Words create worlds.

Violent words create violent acts.

Fascist words create fascist acts.

Seditious, treasonous, insurrectionist words create seditious, treasonous, insurrectionist acts.

Even after the debacle spectacle at the Capitol yesterday, 147 Republican lawmakers voted against democracy, voted to overturn the election.

I have been writing this column called, “Words Create Worlds,” about how what we say begins to create reality. Psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton warns about malignant normality, when we gradually become desensitized to words and our reality gradually becomes malignant. Our country has become unhealthy in mind and body and spirit. We are suffering from a nearly unchecked spread of Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic – with no coordinated national public health policy and politicians actively promoting unhealth; we have also been suffering from a disease of the mind and social body: fascism. Now we have new words creating our worlds.

treason (n.)

c. 1200, “betraying; betrayal of trust; breach of faith,” from Anglo-French treson, from Old French traison “treason, treachery” (11c.; Modern French trahison), from Latin traditionem (nominative traditio) “delivery, surrender, a handing down, a giving up,” noun of action from past participle stem of tradere “deliver, hand over,” from trans- “over” (see trans-) + dare “to give” (from PIE root *do- “to give”). A doublet of tradition. The Old French form was influenced by the verb trair “betray.”

insurrection (n.)

“an uprising against civil authority,” early 15c., insurreccion, from Old French insurreccion or directly from Late Latin insurrectionem (nominative insurrectio) “a rising up,” noun of action from past participle stem of insurgere “to rise up.”

sedition (n.)

mid-14c., “rebellion, uprising, revolt, concerted attempt to overthrow civil authority; violent strife between factions, civil or religious disorder, riot; rebelliousness against authority,” from Old French sedicion (14c., Modern French sédition) and directly from Latin seditionem (nominative seditio) “civil disorder, dissension, strife; rebellion, mutiny,” literally “a going apart, separation,” from se- “apart” (see secret (n.)) + itio “a going,” from ire “to go” (from PIE root *ei- “to go”).

Meaning “conduct or language inciting to rebellion against a lawful government” is from 1838. An Old English word for it was folcslite. Less serious than treason, as wanting an overt act, “But it is not essential to the offense of sedition that it threaten the very existence of the state or its authority in its entire extent.”

Let’s return back to where this phrase originates with Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel.

“Words create worlds,” Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel.[1]

“Words create worlds.” These are the words of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, here is the full quote, remembered by his daughter, Susannah Heschel:

“Words, he often wrote, are themselves sacred, God’s tool for creating the universe, and our tools for bringing holiness — or evil — into the world.  He used to remind us thatthe Holocaust did not begin with the building of crematoria, and Hitler did not come to power with tanks and guns; it all began with uttering evil words, with defamation, with language and propaganda.  Words create worlds he used to tell me when I was a child.  They must be used very carefully.  Some words, once having been uttered, gain eternity and can never be withdrawn.  The Book of Proverbs reminds us, he wrote, that death and life are in the power of the tongue.”[2]

Death and life are in the power of the tongue. We have a great sickness in this country and are in need of words of healing – not words of violence, not nasty words, not fascist words, not seditious words, not treasonous words, not insurrecionist words. We are in need of words of healing, words of unity, words of spiritual democracy. Let us stop creating destructive worlds through destructive words. Also, please wear your damn mask, we are in a pandemic and that is the most basic public health policy – it is not politics, it is science.

Here are the links to my essays over the past couple years on this subject:

Words Create Worlds.1: A Memoriam for those Killed in the Christchurch Mosque Shootings

Words Create Worlds.2: Rebecca Solnit and Calling Things by their True Names

Words Create Worlds.3: Remembering the Past & Learning from History

Words Create Worlds.4: The Fight for Humanity – or should we say – Working for Humanity

Words Create Worlds.5 To Fight Against This Age: On Fascism & Humanism

Words Create Worlds.6 Doctors Against Fascism

Words Create Worlds.7 – The Cure: Spiritual Humanity

Words Create Worlds.8 – The Public Health Crisis of Fascism

One thought on “Words Create Worlds.9 – Death & Life are in the Power of the Tongue

  1. True. But between our exposure to words and our reactions to them are personal judgements and choices. So, I think that words only have the amount of power that we choose to give them.

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