Sticks and stones may break our bones …

… But words are killing us

The author is a mother and grandmother who is active in nonprofit work. She lives in Chico

There has always been a mean streak, a bully component, in American culture. However, it has been enhanced and empowered by our technical ability to bring name-calling, hate-filled language to the global airspace.

It is not just politicians and media producers who promote this mean-spirited abuse of communication platforms. Religious extremists (and some not so extreme) fill television, Internet and radio pulpits with hate-filled language of attack and intolerance.

Some days it seems that our political leaders, our religious leaders, our very superficial celebrities of screen and sport, our union leaders, our corporate leaders—everyone who can possibly get their hands on a microphone—is promoting a language and culture all about me, me, and more me. What’s in it for me? How much can I blame and disrespect everyone else? It’s as if our communal adolescence has been extended by 30 years.

The nation and our community continue to receive news of youthful suicide victims. Many have been the subject of campus or Internet bullying. Can we imagine the heartache of friends, parents and grandparents? Of course, the first thing that comes to mind is, “Why?”

Just look around at our culture, which seems to be verbally assaulting and crushing our spirit. Our political campaigns reach a frenetic crescendo of name-calling, outright lying, vitriolic verbal assault that is mind-numbing. Popular television shows reward winners with millions of dollars because they have proven to be the most conniving, back-stabbing and verbally abusive individuals, while other programs verbally abuse the losers of all sorts of competitions. It’s not enough to simply win or exceed on our own merits or accomplishments; it appears we must berate, belittle and bully those who did not “win.”

We now officially have workplace bullying, schoolyard bullying and cyber-bullying. This all reflects what some are calling a Vulture Culture. Webster’s Student Dictionary describes meanness as, “a miserliness; dislike of sharing things” and a bully as “a person who frightens people who are weaker than he is; = thugs.”

Come on, are we really going to let bullies and meanness continue to rule the day? Name-calling is cruel and abusive at any age. It should never be rewarded or celebrated. At this point in time, how can we be surprised that our children have learned by our adult role models how to taunt, humiliate and belittle each other to death?