When I was a little boy I learned the taste of laundry soap, and possibly a better use for it, while walking around for longer or shorter times with one of those yellow soap bars in my mouth; and learned thereby a lesson in the use of words, the control of my emotions and the proper way to make a point in an argument, or defend a position in a debate.


As I grew older I experimented with the power of words, and got not a few lumps and bumps from friend and foe on the street, and in the taverns. Once, in college, I heard a certain word used during a lecture, in a class on Shakespeare of all places, an old Anglo-Saxon one I think, which made such an impression on me that I can still remember the kind of day it was, and the month, the weather, the man who spoke it and where I sat.

Words, some of them, are powerful things. That was my professor’s point; a decorated WWII combat veteran, a tank commander with the Third Army, and a Shakespeare scholar.  Along with millions of other young men he had interrupted his education to defeat the evil words and weapons, and the warped minds and terrible ideas that gave them birth of madmen. Words can attract and repel, heal and hurt, bring smiles or tears, win friends or beget enemies. And, no matter what, they always either educate you or pervert you, attract you or repel you; convincing one, often no matter what you might be inclined to think of the words themselves, of the goodness, the worth, the sincerity, the character of the speaker; or losing the listener with their twisted rhetoric.

My first wife, may she rest in peace, was very much aware of the power of words, the force of speech, the tone of a voice in conversation or correction or coercion. “Measure and weigh,” was a phrase that came from her often and has stayed with me; though I confess that until latterly it’s been honored more in the breach than the observance.

I have known since before I went to school that such things are to use an old word “unbecoming”. Or, they used to be thought so. Now, well…

It was only about twenty years ago when I was walking in a mall somewhere that I hear two young girls speaking the words that would have put me on a steady soap diet for no little time. And, they were neither angry or exercised about anything. It was simply an ordinary conversation, one which had no measure, no boundary, no care about where they were, who was able to hear them, or, really what picture they painted for others of the kind of persons they were. They certainly painted an unpleasant picture for me of themselves and made a lasting impression on me of their intelligence and a lot else. But that has become a commonplace. I understand that it is becoming a commonplace on “entertainment” programs.

All of this is to explain part of the reason why I was very disappointed by the recent appearance of a young fellow who spoke on the occasion of the recent march in Washington after yet another school yard slaughter.

Had it been a debate contest he would have been disqualified. That it took place in front of the nation and for the cause it did cheapened it and himself…and all who are “high-fiving” him on his “great” job, remarkable courage and “powerful” rhetoric.

It was none of that.

There is much that is wrong (brutish language a tiny bit of it) that results in high school massacres which will not be improved in the slightest bit if even every gun ever made were found and rendered into its constituent atoms.


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