Friday, August 24, 2007

The Power of Speech

Back to Howard Zinn: another thing that made an impression on me while I was watching the documentary was some footage of him speaking at an anti-war rally during Vietnam. He went on for quite some time advocating non-violence. The crowd cheered. The cops all stood around, and when he was done they lifted up their clubs and moved in.

I asked myself, "What caused them to respond to non-violence with violence?" I could only believe that they were scared. They felt threatened by talk of non-violence--more than that, they felt threatened by someone who was willing to stand up in public and criticize the government. Such things must not be allowed. Speech is dangerous. All he did was talk.

Speech is dangerous under other circumstances too--in families, for example. Many families, perhaps all, have secrets--things that they believe it's better not to talk about. In some families, the secrets relate to child abuse. I have personal experience of this.

The first rule of child abuse is "Don't tell anyone." You might expect that the abuser doesn't want anyone to know about what he did. But in many cases, nobody else in the family wants to know either. And when they start making excuses for the abuser, one begins to get the impression that talking about abuse is worse than actually doing it. Child abuse is not seen as a threat to the family. Telling the truth about it--that's a threat.

Speaking out is a powerful and frightening thing. But for some of us, the truth is necessary.

See also "Without Struggle There Is No Freedom" and "The Power of Silence"

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