Oppressive language does more than represent violence; it is violence; does more than represent the limits of knowledge; it limits knowledge.” -Toni Morrison (Nobel lecture, 1993)
Toni Morrison is one of my favorite authors, and her words ring as true today as they did 24(ish) years ago when she was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. She was born in Ohio, destined to set the world ablaze with the wonder and wit of her elegant words.
Morrison is on my mind because her fiction was, as she put it, never entertainment. She captured the scathing realities and harshness of a life that was still, somehow, undeniably beautiful. Words like these need to be brought forward over and over again to show the multitudes of generations that our work as social beings is unfinished; ongoing.
The news is rife with hostility: Stories of terror and oppression stalk back and forth across doorways; fearmongering and rhetoric torment watchers, listeners and readers who had wish for nothing but peaceful lives for their families; lies and misdirection bewilder those with blind anger, antagonize the enlightened, and threaten the vulnerable masses of our fractured nation.
Donald Trump has been called a number of names by countless people. He has been compared to Nixon, Hitler, and toddler. He has casually spread lies in the name of coercion or wealth or ignorance. Regardless of the premise, Donald Trump has become synonymous with an anxiety that inhibits breathing, generates enmity, and corrodes confidence in a nation that could thrive through its diversity if truly given a chance.
Of course, the cynic in me calls this a pipe dream. We've been working toward various forms of social justice for centuries. Whether we talk about perpetuating slavery, suppressing women's rights, treating Native Americans like pariahs, discriminating against people of Chinese dissent, or placing Japanese Americans in internment camps, the United States has a history of working against what is right.
Nevertheless, the fight goes on. I have to believe that there are people and actions that will continue to make a difference. While the murky waters of our history may not be purged of all its refuse, there is plenty to learn from the the sludge of our past misdeeds. We have to continue pushing against a system that paints our victims as violators. The prison industrial complex has to be taken apart one brick at a time, and the glass ceiling needs one good crack to spawn a web that will break into shards. Our words must continue a transformation into political action. While I truly believe that it will get worse before it gets better, I know in my heart that it will get better.