Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Watch your language!

Some of the news reports related to the immigration bill in the Senate reminded me of a book I read maybe ten years ago. I can't remember the title, but it was about the rhetoric historically employed to de-personalize some despized class of human beings in order to legitimize some form of societal injustice. The author backed up his assertions with plenty of historical evidence about the way language was used against American Indians, black Americans, peasants in the Soviet States ("kulaks"), Jews in Nazi Germany, and the unborn. I've been seeing more and more of the same technique being employed in the immigration debates.
Here are the five typical "categories" of depersonalized language (the words can be noun, verbs, adjectives, etc.):
Persons as objects ("blob of tissue")
Persons as animals ("breeding like rabbits")
Persons as insects ("vermin"; "swarming")
Persons as a disease of society ("virus", "plague")
Persons as active agents of harm ("parasites", "scourge" )
Obviously, the examples are not exhaustive!
We can help foster a mentality of respect for human life by correcting similar abuses of language with regard to human beings in the immigration debate when we find instances on blogs and in the press.


Deacon Fred, CMF said...

Once again, Sister...you are right on them money! Thanks for remindingall of us just how hurtful words can be...And they can be enriching, supportive, and life giving, after all, Our Lord, Jesus is the Word!
Deacon Fred

Anonymous said...

As a youngster in the schoolyard (circa early twentieth century), there was an automatic retort to teasers..."sticks and stones can break my bones, but names will never hurt me".
How little we knew. DB