Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Power of Words



I must be the last person on earth to pick up SAVVY by Ingrid Law. From the first line on, I was hooked: When my brother Fish turned thirteen, we moved to the deepest part of inland because of the hurricane and, of course, the fact that he'd caused it.

It's not just that I like quirky characters, but how they relate to each other and how utterly believable they are. I still haven't finished it, but I've already laughed out loud so many times that my kids are itching to get their hands on it. They will have to wait. Right now they are laughing their heads off with James Howe's Bunnicula books. Thank goodness.

But this reminds me again and again the power of words. Words have the power to transport us to other worlds, to make us laugh, make us think, but we can also distort the meaning of words to do grave unjustice, even kill.

Just think of Nazi Germany or slavery or abortion. By defining Jewish people, or slaves or the unborn as non-persons, we have sanctioned killing. The full weight of this hasn't sunk in yet, but already the health-care reform makes me realize that very soon, we will legalize killing of those who are old and sick and thought to be a burden to our society. I pray this does not happen.

Two books by William Brennan have brought immense clarity to the way we use words:

Dehumanizing the Vulnerable: When Word Games Take Lives

and John Paul II: Confronting the Language Empowering the Culture of Death.

If you have interest in the power of words and how they are used and misused, read these books.

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2 comments:

Jen said...

my boys (12 and 9)loved Saavy...a nice twist on Super Powers. The ending is sweet, too.

Vijaya said...

At first I thought my boy wouldn't want to read it given that the narrator is a girl, but there's so much action and of course, savvies.