People Don't Think
So in my daily dealings with kids, I sometimes marvel at just the sheer thoughtlessness with which they sometimes speak. I had one instance quite recently where I was stopped in my tracks.
"Quit moving your chair like that - it's raping my ears!"
I stood, frozen in place. I knew that the student had said it without any thought, and there was no malice behind her words, but the expression and the sheer insensitivity of using the term raping was what stopped me cold.
It wasn't the first time I'd heard such a word, and each of the very few times I've heard it used, it has inflamed my emotions to such an extent I almost want to weep. Sexual assault is one of the most violent crimes imaginable, and to use the verb "raping" out of context and so casually galls me every time I hear it in that way.
We've taken to using language so very loosely, with little regard to what something actually means prior to saying it. There doesn't appear to be the thought there once was behind saying something, and while I do appreciate that we are a far more sensitive society in many respects, there comes a time when the pendulum has swung too far and we have to remind people about what they're saying.
When you're using the term "rape" to describe a simple annoyance, you are unintentionally evoking traumatic memories. You are potentially bringing someone back to that moment or moments in time where what is likely the absolute worst thing that could happen did happen. You are bringing them back to a time that they survived but will carry with them for the rest of their lives, a time that they may flash back to with a given sound, smell or even a word. That simple word is so powerful, and yet, there are so many people who don't even think about the harm they are doing.
Words can often pack more pain than a physical blow, and that's their superpower.
The Power Of Words
I don't think it's asking for much to tell people to start thinking a bit more about their word usage. We started to do it with ethnic jokes, for instance. Three decades ago, it was a little more in vogue to tell jokes about a particular race or even a particular hair color. Now, not so much, and with good reason - such jokes may have sparked some laughter at the time, but there was always someone who felt made fun of, and not in a nice way. Jokes stop being funny when that happens.
I'm not suggesting that perhaps we become even more politically correct - far from it. The fact of the matter is, we live in a far different world today than it was when I was a teenager nearly 30 years ago. Certain things are just straight up wrong to say; saying something is "raping" your ears, no matter the intent, is a painful example of this. So are expressions like "that's so gay," which is something else I hear from time to time.
We don't know what the people sitting beside us have been through, and we sure don't know how they might identify. While I know there's no way we can please everyone and just be one big happy global family, I continue to hope that one day, that might happen.
I continue to hope that people will stop walking through life with blinders on and realize that their words have power beyond mere intent, and depending on your word choice, even the best-intended thoughts can have terrible repercussions.
I continue to hope that people will realize others can't just crawl inside their heads and see what is meant beyond the words they've used, so they've got to think about what they say and say exactly that.
See, I have hope that people can actually think about what they're doing and saying before someone gets hurt. I understand that not everyone's going to like what's said, and that happens, but using terms like rape to describe an annoying sound or expressions like "that's so gay" to describe something that seems odd to them has a hurt that goes beyond mere words.
Think, people. The next people that could be hurt from your words are your own loved ones.