Upon this writing I decided to kill two birds with one stone. That is, my writer’s choice assignment will incorporate a word list assignment. Fourteen words derived from a third party source.
So I write ….. In 1985 a statue of Janette Pickering Rankin was placed in the Statuary Hall in Washington D.C. The inscription on its base reads … “I cannot vote for war”. At the dedication ceremony she was referred to as “one of the most controversial and unique women in Montana and American political history”. In 1916, four years before the Constitution guaranteed the right of women to vote she became the first female American elected to the United States Congress. By then she had become the guru of the suffragette movement delivering white papers lobbying legislators in several states for the enfranchisement of women. Reports that passed third party blind reviews and that discredited longstanding grandfather clauses that were often supported by tone deaf male members of Congress. In her freshman year as a congresswoman she was watched closely to see if she could handle the challenges of high office. And well she could because in that first year she introduced legislation that eventually became the Nineteenth Amendment granting unrestricted voting rights to women nationwide. However it was a tour of duty not without a black mark. She was a dedicated and principled pacifist who genuinely believed world peace was women’s work and in 1917 voted with 49 other congressmen against the United State’s entry into World War I. She was not re-elected at the end of her first term.
For the next 20 years she continued to work for the cause of peace and advocate for social reform. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s she participated in international peace organizations. During that time she was a lobbyist and speaker for the National Council for the Prevention of War. The success and notoriety of that work led her to run for Congress once again and was re-elected in 1940. Following the attack on Pearl Harbour in December of 1941 she cast the sole vote in Congress against the United States entering World War II. She was clearly the master of her own fate as the vote essentially aborted her congressional career. While some believed it spoke to her integrity and was a brave decision she basically committed political suicide and was never re-elected. She continued her dedication to peace throughout her remaining years.
I trust most will find this writing to be at best interesting and at worst boring but I don’t believe many will find it to be harmful to anyone. Think about that! Are any of you offended? Except of course the Dean of Stanford University. The fourteen words I used from a third party source are words that the University has identified as harmful to marginalized groups in our society. Stanford contends that the word American insinuates that the United States is the most important country of the 42 countries in the Americas. It contends that the word grandfather has its roots in the “grandfather clause” adopted by the Southern states to deny voting rights to blacks. It warns against words ending in man or woman such as freshman or congresswoman as not being inclusive. The word abort is linked to abortion. The word guru is a sign of respect in the Hindu tradition and using it casually negates its original value. The word brave perpetuates the stereotype of the noble courageous savage and thus paints an Indigenous male as being less than a man. Black mark and black sheep must not be used because of their negative connotations with the color black. Referring to a scientific based research report as a white paper is clearly harmful. And in order to not define someone by a singular characteristic we are not to use the word immigrant. The list goes on and on. The University also announced that it intends to educate people about the impact of “racist, violent, and biased’ words.
Until I am fully educated in that regard I may just stay with the contention that a word is none of the above but rather the context in which it is used is what determines whether it is harmful or not. I would venture to guess that the starving children in India don’t give a Bengal Tiger’s ass whether those of us in a first world country use the word guru casually. I would guess the masses of poverty plagued children on the Indigenous reserves in northern Canada don’t give a bull moose’s ass whether people choose to refer to their heroes as brave. I would guess the many parents of black kids getting shot on city streets or assaulted by police don’t give a black sheep’s ass whether people call mistakes black marks or research reports white papers. I would also guess that the thousands of families detained at the southern border don’t give a Texas armadillo’s ass whether they are called immigrants. All of those people are hoping that our leaders, especially the well-educated ones, are providing better solutions to the problems that the marginalized face in our society. Solutions that are better than some lame ass initiative on semantics.
But who am I to speak on the subject. I have never even heard the phrase ‘Karen’. However Stanford University insists that a Karen must be referred to as a demanding or entitled white woman. It also tells me that my heartfelt greeting of “long time no see” to a friend who I have not recently spent time with is an old offensive adage that was originally used to mock Indigenous and Chinese people who spoke pidgin English. Yet Stanford doesn’t acknowledge the old adage … “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never break me” which is reported to have appeared in a publication of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1862.
I am truly glad that I am not a freshman at a modern day university – and yes I know that using the word freshman is not inclusive now that I am a little better educated. But on a modern day campus I would be totally adrift on the current Sea of Woke Culture hoping only to spot a good luck omen albatross that might lead me to some safe semantics shore.