This was one of those ordinary weeks that was marked by extraordinary moments. One such moment was the release of the Vanity Fair issue, featuring the transition of Bruce Jenner to Caitlyn Jenner. Along with the vivid images of this transformation, they were a variety of words that the public assigned to this story. Some such words, such as “courageous”, “hero”, and “brave”, ignited a firestorm on social media, and the debate continues.
This public debate about what constitutes courage and bravery and who is braver and more courageous played on an endless loop in my head, and it gave me pause. Words are powerful indeed, which is why I take issue with the childhood rhyme, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me”. Words can hurt, and words can heal. This week, I was reminded that words can cause a great deal of controversy. If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then words are in the mouth, mind, and heart of the speaker.
In today’s emoticon, emoji, and abbreviation obsessed world, genuine, thoughtful, and meaningful words seem to be headed for extinction. In the race to find a way to say the most with the least amount of words, we have altered the meaning of words in the process. We call people whom we haven’t seen in decades and could not identify in a police line up “friends”. We broadcast our words on social media, and because we post it, publish it, tweet it, pin it, and photograph it, our opinion suddenly becomes fact, and we create an online life that may or may not resemble what actually occurs offline . We liberally use the word “love” both to describe how we feel about the people closest to us and how we feel about material objects. So, it should come as no surprise that we are now caught up in a national debate about whether or not Caitlyn Jenner should be described as courageous, brave, and/or heroic.
So, is Caitlyn Jenner deserving of any or all of the aforementioned words? Yes, no, and maybe, as it depends on whom you pose this question to, and in the end, there is not a right or wrong answer. In the end, there are only words, both positive and negative ones, just like there are positive and negative speakers of such words.
That’s another story . . .
Categories: That's Another Story