Language matters ~ a lot

Dear President Trump,

The other day Laura played me a song from Brittany Howard’s new album Jaime. The song is “13th Century Metal” (see Genius Lyrics). It’s Howard’s riff on what we need to do to come out of our own 21st century Dark Age. She promises to think before she speaks and to be careful about who she gives her energy to because she knows she’ll need it for a greater cause, which she tells us has to do with enlightenment and the spread of love, compassion, and humanity. Throughout the song she emphasizes that we are all brothers and sisters and it’s this deep connection between us that seems drive her pledge to love her enemies, to strive to become what she most admires in others, and to always stay within that which is God.

It’s an incredible song. Her Genius Lyrics notes say that she wrote it in part in response to you and in part in response to the news of Prince’s death. She said she needed to write herself out of that dark space.

The one glitch in the lyrics is where she enjoins us to pivot towards kindness wherever we go: “Just do the best you can / to be kind / to your fellow man.” I was listening along and got to the “fellow man” line and it felt like all the air got sucked out of the room. How hard would it have been to use “being” (for example) instead of man? I know it doesn’t rhyme with “can” and that syllabically it’s a little off, but “being” can be sung as though it’s just one syllable and not rhyming for the greater good would be just fine. It made my heart hurt that she defaulted to such exclusionary language.

Then this morning I read James Comey’s WP Op Ed about how our oldest law is that public servants must take an oath to the Constitution and how this law will be the lynchpin in the impeachment and removal proceedings. The Op Ed is definitely worth reading as he makes some strong points about how your GOP props have painted themselves into a very tight corner with regard to past righteousness over hewing to the Constitution and their present day BS over you and your actions. It’s something else, though, that I really want to lift up about this Op Ed today.

Comey points out that an early Supreme Court Justice (unfortunately not named) said:

“It results from the plain right of society to require some guaranty from every officer, that he will be conscientious in the discharge of his duty. Oaths have a solemn obligation upon the minds of all reflecting men.”

And then after laying out his argument for how you and the GOP have clearly not been faithful to your Constitutional oaths he closes with:

“If oaths and promises, the bedrock of the rule of law, are to mean anything, the senator (referring to Portman) and his colleagues will need to explain how they square their solemn promises with Trump’s actions. All Americans will be listening, but especially the young, who may someday have the privilege of taking that oath, with its “solemn obligation upon the minds of all reflecting” people.”

This made my heart quite a bit happier.

May we all be safe to be seen and referenced.
May we all be willing to use language for the greater good.
May we see that health and well-being are predicated on being seen and known.
May we make peace with the real changes that will bring us all into the fold.

Tracy Simpson

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