I’m a person who believes in words.
I used to believe in words a lot more than I do now. Then I went to journalism school and realized that the dream I had of making a difference through writing was a long shot – not because I’m not a good writer and not because newspapers are dying, but because I wanted to make an everyday, sustainable kind of difference, not a once-in-a-lifetime-story difference.
I believe in words, but they aren’t enough.
Words have power.
Words can build you up or bring you down.
Words can change a person’s mindset, they way they look at the world, the way they feel about an issue, or perhaps even the way they make decisions about the future.
Words can’t, however, change anything that the person listening to or reading them doesn’t want them to change.
Sometimes, and this breaks my writer’s heart, I have to admit that the words we say and write and read that are so desperately impactful aren’t accessed by those who need them the most. Or perhaps they’re heard, but they simply aren’t believed. Because to believe would be to completely rock the shaky foundation a person has built their life or their sense of self upon.
This year we’ve seen this more than any other year I can remember in the 30 I’ve been alive. From misquoted statements to completely wrong assertions, “fake news” to actually fake news, denials to lip service apologies, we’ve seen that words can’t always do what we want them to do.
In 2017, we learned that words are not enough. No matter how many people are saying the same ones, we need more than just a chorus of voices and pens and keyboards.
Words are too easy to write off with a different set of quotable we’ve all heard before:
“It’s just a joke.”
“It’s just locker room talk.”
“Boys will be boys.”
“Things will be different.”
“Not everyone is like that.”
“We weren’t there, so how do we know what happened?”
Actions cannot be as easily ignored.
Actions are what will truly matter in 2018.
Some may expect this to shake my foundation and view of the world – but words aren’t the only thing I have faith in. As I wrote five or so years ago, I also believe in imagination, in the future, and in my fellow human beings. Even when faced with an atrociously bigoted and selfish leader with more followers than I would like, or with people who refuse to acknowledge and surrender their privilege because of fear, I still believe in humanity.
I believe that there is more good in the world than bad.
I believe that we have the ability and the willingness to step up and take control of our future, to make it our own vision of America rather than someone else’s.
I believe that having the bad made so very clearly obvious to us for the past year gives us an opportunity to fight back in ways we could not when the evil in our society was being discussed at private dinner tables, chatted about in subthreads on Reddit, and mumbled under peoples’ breaths.
There are far more of us on the good side than there are on the bad, so let’s believe in ourselves and our ability to impact change.
Mahatma Ghandi made my point more eloquently than I ever could when he said:
You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.
Let’s clean house. Just get a shitload of Dawn and start scrubbing the country down.