Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Freedom Day


Freedom Day.

This is a day that is new to my consciousness. This year is the first that I am celebrating it, personally, and have helped organize an event marking the day at Vita. Today we are all gathering to have a cuppa tea and will participate in a Disability Pride event that discusses Freedom. As many of the people attending the event have known the captivity of institutionalization, it will prove to be an emotional day.

Today, though, on the blog. I want to talk about a word.

It's a word in common usage.

It's a word that, when used, often diminishes it's meaning.

It's a word that, in any form, should strike horror, but no longer does.




Over the past many years, even before I became aware of Juneteenth, I have been trying to eliminate those words from my speech. I believe slavery to be one of the most hateful of human crimes, the purchase of one human being by another is so abhorrent an idea that it occupies the same part of my brain as the word 'evil.'

Yet I hear people say, people who make a good living, that they are treated like a 'slave' by their boss.


Do they know what that means?

Have they been beaten and brutalized, raped and murdered? Have they had their husband, their wives, their children taken from them and sold - gone forever? Have they been made to bow in order to avoid beating?

And I hear people say, "I was slaving away at work today."


Do they know what that means?

Slaving isn't the same as 'working hard' or 'working long hours' or 'working with intensity.' It doesn't mean that at all. It means working under domination, under ownership, under the control of another.

Every time I hear the word used, abused, I shudder. The horror of slavery has become diminished by our trivializing the very word used to name it. "Name it - shame it" only works if there is shame in the name.




None of these words carry the shame it should.

It's like we took a look at the horror of our history and decided that we could lessen it by lessening the 'meaning' of what was done. By changing the definition of the word, we could distance ourselves from the evil that was practiced. By 'slaving over a hot stove' or punching your boss on the shoulder at a company picnic and calling him the 'old slavedriver' or by 'slaving away in the garden' ... by using these words this way we participate in the diminishment of a massive crime against humanity.

I wrote this blog, I didn't slave over a keyboard. I'm finishing this blog and then I'm going to do some work I've got to finish today - I'm not working for a slave driver. I'm watching Joe water plants on the balcony, he's enjoying himself, he's not slaving away.

I want to be careful with my words.

Some words need to convey horror.

Slave. Slavery. Slaving.

These are words that should evoke pictures of horror in our heads.

They don't any more.



Shame on us.


John R. said...

It is astounding how words get diluted, morphed, changed and go distant from initial meaning. I have spoken before about; idiot, moron, imbecile etc...those words come so quickly to mouths and minds when we want to attribute a negative to a person. We shouldn't. They stink with pain and historical anguish and labeling.

Slave. Slavery. Yup, although we still have it in the world, I bet nobody reading this blog is a victim of it! I hope not. I will not use the word unless it is in relation to the actual horror. Thanks, Dave.

Colleen said...

Dear Dave:

I have my unsweetened tea right here. You are right. John is right. There is an unconscious process involving denial that allows us to diminish the horror of our collective actions by using the words associated with that horror in trivial ways. I confess to never having thought of the word slave in this way. But you are right. It is horror that should not be trivialized.

TMc said...

Thanks for the reminder. I try (when I'm not using sarcasm to make a point) to be concious and respectful in the words I use. I must admit that I am guilty here, but will strive to do better.
I often make analogies to "town slaves" when discussing the disability indusrtial complex and that may continue. Outside of that, I will do better. I'll have tea (unsweetened) today as well.

Princeton Posse said...

Dave, Did you see the new shoes from Adida's? They appear to have plastic "shackles" that attach the shoe to the ankle. After releasing the shoes, the hew & cry has caused the manufactor to withdraw the shoes and apologize. Or was that publicity? Nevertheless, interesting.

Tamara said...

Good point. Slavery is a horrible thing. I learned recently that my grandfather's family had slaves. I don't know why I was the only one in the family that was shocked by it. I guess I was deluding myself. But, I was shocked, and it still really bothers. I just can't grasp the concept of "owning" another person. One family member told me that, yes, she knew it; but that they were treated just like family. Yeh, right. Talk about deluding yourself.

Kristine said...

Happy Freedom Day, Dave. And thank you for keeping me from growing complacent, but instead continually reexamining my world, my actions, my understanding, and my feelings. Daily visits here are so good for me... very centering. :)

Joyfulgirl said...

Wow this is an inspiring post. Thank you SO much for always making me think/re-think.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your post. I have been using that word recklessly and will stop now. Thanks again.