It’s hardly a surprise that I should feel strongly about the power of words and our care in choosing them. Words are the conduits of our communications and, with that, our feelings. While the language we use may vary to express them, feelings: happy, sad, angry are universal. Our experiences shape our feelings, which is why it is so important, especially when writing, to wisely choose words to represent them and support our intended messages.
The reason I am writing is because this week is the anniversary of the Sandy Hook School shootings. I am seeing lots of posts on social media with headings like: “Never forget” and “Honor the Sandy Hook Tragedy”. This is a case where, due to the emotionally charged subject, words are especially critical. When I see these kinds of posts, I immediately ask myself is this what this person or group really wants to say? Do they mean to say they actually want to honor a tragedy? Why would anyone want to honor a tragedy? By definition the word honor means: to hold in honor or high respect; revere.
When they say never forget, what are they referring to? What about that day should we never forget? Shall we keep the pain alive? Shall we continue to relive the shock and sadness we saw on the news? Shall we replay memories of horror we imagined in our minds’ eyes based on the stories we heard? I truly hope not.
I do believe that those who generate these posts come from the same soft place in their hearts as I do, because I can’t believe that anyone would think we should remain stuck in the pain, horror and anger of a day we so regret. However, in no way would I suggest we minimize the magnitude of the event or marginalize the lives that were lost and those forever changed by it. I just take issue with the language that is calling attention to it.
Perhaps it is presumptuous to say, but I believe that what these fine people mean is: that they are urging us to remember with love and compassion the children, their parents and all those that lost and gave of themselves that day; that we never forget that we learned about the importance of supporting mental health in our communities; that we continue to learn from a community that bonded together in support of each other; that we honor those most affected who continued on to try to make the world a safer place for others.
I am a proponent of attempting to find and honor the post traumatic growth that was born from that day. I believe that hope and love are much better feelings and messages than keeping the tragedy alive. This is exactly why I believe that the words we choose to spread our message have so much power.