Part of being an author is understanding the meaning, both literally and figuratively, of words. Now what does that exactly mean? Words carry a definition that Mr. Webster and the Oxford University have carefully curated for society so that we may understand each other. But there is also the underlying, emotional, and evocative reaction to words. And yes this sounds something akin to the post-truth, post-fact reality of our day, and no, they are not the same thing.
As I wrote in my piece on WORDS
Words carry power. They carry meaning. They carry lifelines. Unfortunately, for too many, words are used to destroy instead of uplift.
No one of good conscience will use the “n” word when referring to African-Americans. Not because that word doesn’t refer to persons of color, but because of the raw evocative memory of slavery, racism, and oppression that it carries. It was a word used to demean and dehumanize an entire group of people. To use such a word today is not simply impolitic, impolite, non-politically correct, or insensitive, it is seen as condoning evil.
The same thing can be said when calling someone a Nazis. We understand who the Nazis were. We know what they did. We understand that when you accuse someone of being a Nazi you are accusing them of being evil personified on Earth. It is used as a way to disarm your political opponent, to demean a point of view and to dehumanize the person you are speaking with. It is such a derogatory word, that when loosing a discussion, people will revert to Godwin’s law to try to win the day. In other words, if all else fails, call your opponent a Nazis and you win by default.
It is such a disgusting epithet in our world, that the modern definition of antisemitism is to equate Jews and Israel with Nazism. A tactic used by those that oppose the existence of Israel and in many case the Jewish People themselves. For what better way to demean Jewish self determination (Zionism), then to compare this right with those that wished to eradicate the Jewish People from the face of the Earth, and gave humanity the 20th century legacy of genocide.
It is a sign of our Orwellian and disturbing times, that those who wish to ethnically cleanse the Jews from their indigenous homeland, then continue this genocide against the remaining Jews of the world, can somehow come off as being on the side of righteousness and tolerance. In fact, a proposed law passed by the Senate, detailing protections for Jewish students on US college campuses from virulent antisemitism, has been attacked as being intolerant. HERE I left the following comment, as people truly have no idea the purpose and proposition of this proposed law:
“Apparently the author is wholly unaware that a law already exists that allows students to sue in the case of civil rights violations by universities and colleges. The problem is that under that law Jewish students aren’t protected as it is based upon race, and being Jewish is not a race, no matter what the altright may think. Prior to the Obama administration this oversight was ignored when Jewish students used the law to sue to protect their rights under the Constitution. However, the Obama US office for Civil Rights enforcement under the Department of Education takes a literal meaning of the law, hence Jewish students are not protected. Several law suits brought on behalf of Jewish students have been dismissed based upon this point of law. This newly proposed law simply fixes that oversight and applies the definition of antisemitism that is accepted by the US State Department.
It is sad that those who demonize the Jewish state and think they can use violent and illiberal actions towards Jewish students on college campuses think that they have that right, but that Jewish students don’t have a right of protection. The law does not inhibit criticism of the State of Israel. Enter any Temple in the US and you will find that. What the law does is bring to the forefront the abject antisemitism inherent in the anti-Israel movements, such as BDS and that perpetrated by the SJP on college campuses.
Basically all this law does is require college administrator to provide Jewish students with the same protections they guarantee racial minorities and women.”
Now both words above, the “n” word and “Nazis,” are simply words. They have a simple definition, conjoined with an underlying understanding within society on what they mean. These words evoke a visceral feeling of anger, disgust, and repulsion that create a meaning beyond their definition.
The same can be said for words that describe the good that people need to do. One such word is TOLERANCE.
What is tolerance? Tolerance is defined:
a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, beliefs, practices, racial or ethnic origins, etc., differ from one’s own; freedom from bigotry.
a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward opinions, beliefs, and practices that differ from one’s own.
interest in and concern for ideas, opinions, practices, etc., foreign to one’s own; a liberal, undogmatic viewpoint.
But here is the rub. When you are tolerant of different points of view, including evil points of view, does that make you more or less a purveyor of democracy or decency? We hear about the topic of cultural relativism (here, here, here, here), how one people’s culture is equal to others. This then creates an overriding issue, how does a culture that destroys another person’s humanity equal the concepts of western democracies? In truth, I am being neither nativist, nor xenophobic. For if we all believe in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, then a culture that curtails those rights are not equal to those that practice and encourage these rights.
To me it is a simple equation. Those who thwart the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are not equal to those that do their best to practice its tenets. Unfortunately, this formula is not followed by many world organizations. When you have some of the worst human rights abusers sitting on the Human Rights Council at the United Nations, then they are in contravention to their own mandate. When those who are committing genocide, as Russia is helping Assad in Syria do as we speak, have a veto over world condemnation of their actions, then the organizations have no meaning, purpose nor raison d’etre. They are a joke, a fools errand, and an abomination.
But so many who are at once good hearted, and promote liberal values, continue in their misguided view of tolerance. They refuse to understand that there are some peoples, nations or ideals that are not equal and should not be tolerated. At no time, whether in our nation, or the world, should we ever give credence to the lone definition of tolerance. At times, an emotional, hot tempered view of a word needs to come into play.
The fact that there are some so abjectly adhering to a misguided concept of tolerance, that they are being tolerant of the intolerable, does not bode well for humanity. Sometimes the world needs more than a simple definition. It needs action. Real action. Not lipservice, or tweets, or pretty little speeches and panels. But real boots on the ground action. This is a visceral understanding that tolerance, while manifestly good in its inception, is not always good in practice. It is an emotional response to the realities of life.
So we may talk about tolerance. We may talk about understanding the meanings of words, but deep down inside human beings have emotional responses to deal with as well. Sometimes, as in a post-truth world, these responses are based upon delusional meanderings of simple minds, or sometimes these responses on based upon life long experiences and understandings of how situations really do work out in the end.
It is essential as a thinking human being to go beyond the simple definition of a word. Find the truth underlying the word you are using. Find the hidden meaning. Find the epicenter of thought and perception. There are times in life that when using the emotional meaning of a word is what will help you find your true soul.
Now to understand TOLERANCE, to truly understand its meaning, we need to heed the words of Holocaust survivor, noted author, and Nobel Peace Laureate Elie Wiesel:
We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe. Elie Wiesel