Disarming my words

I will no longer give trigger warnings to my students.

I will not shoot them emails; I will not fire off messages.

As a writer, I no longer have targets and I will no longer take aim at them. When I send out new stories for publication, I will not shotgun or scattergun my submissions — I will not bombard journals, will not send a barrage of stories to magazines. When I prepare a submission but fear rejection, I will not bite the bullet before sending out my work.

When I argue with people, I refuse to take potshots or cheap shots; I will not bring the big guns.

I might try to respond to arguments or situations as they arise, doing my best to think on my feet, so to speak — but I will never shoot from the hip. Conversely, no matter how prepared I am, I will never be locked and loaded.

I will solve no problems with silver bullets. Not even this one.

As a fiction writer, I will continue to write about guns and the violence they assist in. I write about our world, and as much as I loathe this, guns and gun violence are a major part of our world. This is not a call for censoring violence; this is no charge that violence begets violence, no claim that “the media made them do it.”

But for me, personally, in my daily language, I will seek whenever possible to set aside the metaphors of violence and firearms. Our language is rich, capable of so much — I have so many other ways to speak, to write. And besides, the realities of violence and firearms are far too prevalent as it is.

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8 thoughts on “Disarming my words

  1. I think about violence metaphors too. I’m in China teaching 160 students English. I take them all out to dinner in groups of about 10. I’m not gonna get a facelift (I’m 57), so I’m using that money to create my platoon of niceness. I used to use the word “army,” but I decided that worked against the word “niceness.” I’ve been too busy to come up with a better word than “platoon.” If you think of one, let me know. My friend Linda Lenhoff directed me to your site. We were in graduate school together at SDSU. I maintain we should stop using “dark” and “black” as negatives, because this just reinforces stereotype and bias. No surprise that this really irritates a lot of people. (Check out the vehemence against me on Quora!) I’m also trying to get the dog radical removed from the word “Jewish” (犹太) in Chinese. And I’m attempting to make people question why a character composed of three women (姦) has meant “adultery, wicked, debauchery” for 4000 years in China (and now it means “rape!” I ask, “Wouldn’t they need utensils?”) The ensuing argument almost got kicked off the TED Talk website. They had to close down the “conversation” after one day. I did get kicked off of ResearchGate for my questions, but I managed to get back on, and now they seem to let everybody on! Anyway, I’ll look at your blog more, but I have to Skype with my therapist now. So much animosity over ideas makes me a little stressed. Keep asking questions. I do.

  2. I hear you, but for my own part my the day never dawn that I stop using metaphors that I squirm at myself. I want to reclaim the language, subvert its use by reference to the artillery of winter; Cupid was blind, and his missile indiscriminate…

    I know, Sam – we have a totally different cultural and social context/environment, and I do appreciate what you are doing and why you are doing it.

    1. Well, as I said, there is no one solution, and this won’t accomplish much except in my own head. But it is remarkable — and remarkably disturbing — how casually these expressions have pervaded in our — my, American — everyday language. I hope to reflect on that each time these phrases do rise to my tongue.

  3. I just realized that I went to your bookreading with Linda! I bought “Hagridden,” but I have been very busy. It’s in Pacifica and I am in China. I look forward to reading. I wonder if it covers the meaning of the word “hag…”

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