We tell our children that words are powerful.
That the words they choose bring healing or hurt. That they must choose their words carefully.
That their words make a difference.
I love words. I love the written and the spoken word. I too love the unspoken - the ones that swirl around in my mind telling a narrative of what I see and feel and long for. What I despise or fear, what I value and notice, what causes me pain or disappointment.
This past week I got stuck on some words and they've been nagging at me for days.
They are missing words. And for me, their absence yields more power than ones that are present.
I've made reference here to a controversial situation that has been unfolding in the small Prairie community of Altona Manitoba. This past week, the Superintendent of the Border Land School Division, to which the affected school in Altona belongs, announced the board's decision on the Ally Certificates. They were to be removed. In their place, teachers have the option of posting a sign which states, "As your teacher I am your Ally. I accept and support you in every way."
I don't think there is anything wrong with the words on the sign that the teachers have been given the option of posting.
What I am stuck on are the absence of the words that are at the heart of this issue. Words like
Those words have been deemed to inappropriate, too controversial, too offensive, too out of place to be present on a certificate hung on a classroom wall.
You see, words do have power. And it is the absence of those words that make me stop and think and wonder.
There are lots of kids in our schools who need an overflowing dose of acceptance. Kids from visible minorities, kids who live below the poverty line, kids who lack support from home, obese kids, mentally ill kids, abused kids, lonely kids, kids with special learning needs, and the list goes on and on and on. The thing is, if any of the characteristics or labels given to the kids I just mentioned were put onto a certificate and hung inside a classroom, this wouldn't have been a story.
It was a story because of the words.
And the kinds of people those words describe.
I've heard it said and I believe that we are afraid of what we don't understand.
When we are afraid of something, we try to block it out and rid ourselves and our environment of it so that we won't feel threatened.
I think it's the fear of those words that have fueled parents in Altona to pressure the school division to make the decision they did.
Only, they have nothing to fear. If their kids are gay or lesbian, transgendered, bisexual or queer, it won't have been a word on a certificate that made them that way. They already know they are and are figuring out what that means for them in the words that swirl around in their heads everyday.
Words are powerful.