We live and we die, we are known, through the words that we speak, the words we write, and in 2017, the words, that we also tweet, we text, we post, and we send out into cyberspace. In just a few words or paragraphs: a heart can be broken, a dream denied or a heart can be mended, a dream realized. Words can set people free. Words can inspire a nation, even a world. Words can also imprison or oppress a people, or close a door, even threaten to tear down a cherished national myth.
And all with a mere stroke of a pen, or the posting of 140 characters on Twitter.
“I hereby proclaim that the immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of aliens from countries referred to in section 217(a)(12) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12) [Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Somalia, Libya and Yemen], would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and I hereby suspend entry into the United States, as immigrants and nonimmigrants, of such persons for 90 days from the date of this order.”
“The Secretary of State shall suspend the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for 120 days....I hereby proclaim that the entry of nationals of Syria as refugees is detrimental to the interests of the United States and thus suspend any such entry until such time as I have determined that sufficient changes have been made to the USRAP to ensure that admission of Syrian refugees is consistent with the national interest.”
(The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, January 27, 2017)
"’Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, With conquering limbs astride from land to land; Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand a mighty woman with a torch, whose flame is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command the air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. ‘Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!’ cries she with silent lips. ‘Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!’"
(“The New Colossus”, 1883, Emma Lazarus, the Statue of Liberty, New York harbor)
Words matter: in these times, in all times.
Words of great wisdom, like ancient words from ancient texts that continue to be read and believed and followed, because of the truths these words proclaim; truths that transcend any specific time or place. Truths that last, generation to generation.
“When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt.” --Leviticus 19:33-34
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” --Matthew 25:25-36
(The Holy Bible)
Words matter, whether expressed by the powerful or the powerless, for by our words, both written and embodied, we will all be judged. Of that I am absolutely sure. Words need no spin nor interpretation nor analysis. Words finally speak for themselves. Words reveal character, conscience, and conviction.
What words will we live by? What words will define us, in this time and in this place, and in this moment in our history?