Weekly Writing Challenge: Power of Names

“Sticks and stones can break my bones, but names can never hurt me.”

It’s an old childhood chant, a miserably inadequate defense against bullies and bigots when one is small and powerless. It was oft-repeated, not only by we, the little victims, but by parents, teachers and other wise counselors. It was supposed to comfort us.

It didn’t because we all knew for a certainty it was untrue.

Names can and do hurt. The hurt caused by a cruel name goes deeper than any mere cut or bruise to the body. Psyches heal but slowly. Sometimes they never heal.







Will you tell me those names don’t hurt?

Of course they hurt. They hurt plenty and are intended to. They carry with them the pain and vituperation of generations of haters. I’m almost afraid to put them in writing. They are so ugly, so wrong they may cause my monitor to short-circuit.

It has been argued — here on WordPress by supposedly respected bloggers — that if a member of a minority hurts you, it gives you the right to strike back any way you can. I disagree with all my heart. Racial and ethnic epithets are never okay, not under any circumstances. To say it is justified by what “they did” just makes you a partner in crime. And it is a crime. 

hate speech is not free

Is it the word itself or its intent that hurts so much? Both I think, plus the history such words carry. A hate word carries the power of all those who ever used it. Each time these words are used, their power is renewed, their devastating effects reinforced.

Time to stop forgiving the hate-spewers. Paula Deen’s and Mel Gibson’s (as well-known examples — they are far from alone) hate-filled monologues were no slips of the tongue, nor were they caused by drugs or drink. You could fill me with all the drugs and booze in the world and you’d never hear that from me. It’s not in me.

Those words are never an accident. NO ONE uses these or words to this effect who does not have a heart full of hate. Don’t let them off the hook. They know exactly what they are saying.

Excuses are not repentance. Hate and bigotry do not deserve a second chance.

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27 thoughts on “STICKS AND STONES

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  3. I agree and I dont’ even though I reeeeally want to, so bad it hurts BUT part of freedom of expression is defending the right of someone whose views you despise to say things that you can’t agree with.

    It doesn’t make it fair or right but to anything other is to start a slippery slope toward true censorship. If we curtails one thing it leaves a precedent to move to the next and then who decides what it right and fair.

    It seem obvious to us of course but that is US not everyone and people forget that. Being a good person, being a decent human being still doesn’t give you the right to prevent another from speaking their mind.

    Speak against it, rant to whoever will listen, preach your argument against using a language of hatred to divide in every forum available to you – it is your right just as it is theirs. It’s not fair, it’s unjust but what is more unjust would be stopping you from speaking out against it if someone decided your opinion was wrong.


    • I respect your opinion, but I don’t agree. Somewhere, right and wrong DO have to matter. Evil should not be allowed to take over. I know about lines and freedom. I also know that we don’t have to draw lines … just not give public forums for the haters to use, not give them free time on the airways … and most of all, don’t buy their products.


      • All of those are choices – which is good and right, people can choose not to let them rent stadiums or meeting halls, people have to choose what is right and what is wrong and what they will listen to and what they won’t but we just can’t take the risk of trying to legislate it as that sword will cut in ways I guarantee you won’t like. People need to grow up and choose, make a stance, advocate against what they feel is wrong but never forget it is always a choice.


        • You can’t legislate morality anyway and I don’t suggest it. It never works. But you can boycott the hate speakers. You can not watch their TV shows or go to their movies. You don’t have to buy their books or attend their rallies. Americans figure “hey, he/she said he didn’t really mean it” and that’s that. And that’s wrong. He DID mean it. And so did she.


          • On that I would be on your bandwagon and tooting a horn – I misunderstood your meaning – yes it is very important not to let things just slide under the radar and to shrug and say ‘oh well’ – boycotts, protest all are important and in this age of social media we have a wonderful weapon on our hands to take the fight to those who would fund them.


            • Historically, every attempt to legislate right and wrong has failed. Spectacularly. But letting the bastards off the hook — having short term memory disorder for bad behavior sends a very wrong message!


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  6. That is terrible advice for kids. Maybe some parents think it will toughen their kids up? That’s about the most benign interpretation I can think of for that, but really it’s pretty mean to burden kids with controlling their response to other kids who are trying to provoke them. That’s hard even for adults to do. It seems like people are being a little more realistic nowadays.

    We have pretty lax rules about language in my house, but I explain to my son that racist and/or gender specific insults are not acceptable in any situation.


    • Good for you. Hate is learned at home, so if you don’t teach it, they won’t learn it,.

      Awareness of bullying and cruelty amongst children has improved a lot since I was growing up, but a shocking number of adults still figure just gutting it out will toughen kids up. Either they never experienced it themselves — or they think it’s a rite of passage and not for adults to interfere. Personally, I could have used some help. But hardly any of us got any. It was a very Darwinian childhood.


      • Yeah me too. I was just talking to my son about it the other day. He was asking if I had ever been bullied. I said “hell yeah, all the time”. I hope I didn’t scare him. My advice to him- tell the authorities. And make friends with big kids and ALWAYS stand up for your own friends.


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  11. I agree with you so much, and I can relate so much! (Coincidence – I had an online encounter with someone whos blog left me frustrated and I had to write – hence The war in Croatia post) :/


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