In the passion and action of responding to President Trump, I have noticed many people and organizations have embraced language and metaphors of war, military and violence. I strongly believe that violence begets violence, and that when we adopt the language of violence to describe our response to violence (whether it be physical or verbal), we begin to think in violent terms and begin to act in violent ways.
Now, it is probably easier for me, a white male, to argue for non-violence, when I have experienced little actual violence from the state or on behalf of institutional actors, but it is not just me who makes this case. We devolve to violence when confronting violence if we think and talk in its language.
But, it is very difficult in a culture steeped in images of military and war to find language and metaphor that is NOT violence-derived. Think “protest” or “resist”…these are violent responses to violence.
So, I’ve started a list of metaphors and words that I will begin using for political situations and for inter-personal interactions. Initially, I imagined that words and images from farming would be helpful, but it turns out that many words have been adopted from war…plow-under, etc. And, modern farming is all about the exclusion of all but one desired organism. Not helpful. So, I began to think about natural processes, and the ocean; specifically, I remembered geomorphology and surfing!
Geomorphology words that can serve as metaphors:
all of the mechanical weathering types, including root wedging, exfoliation or pressure unloading, ice wedging or frost action, and organic activity. Think about how powerful of a metaphor frost action can be: a trickle of water finds a crevice in rock, freezes in place and creates a crack; more water flows into the crack, and freezes, exploding the rock into pieces. Wow.
Also, accretion (the steady accumulation of silt and other rock sizes by deposition after being carried by water that has slowed down) and abrasion (wearing down of rocks by rubbing or bouncing them against one another, producing smaller, rounder and smoother rocks).
Surfing also provides metaphors:
dropping in, messy or blown-out, paddling-out, pulled-under, over-the-waterfall, goofy-foot
Imagine talking about a bill in Congress being blown-out (as in, it is too windy and the waves are un-rideable, and surfers should wait for calmer conditions), and that a centrist Republican, by assenting to a bad bill, is going over the waterfall (as in being sucked under and tumbled in the washing machine of wave action, because she got too close to the edge of a breaking wave).
It will take time and diligent practice, but we can change how we speak. And we will begin to think differently, more powerfully, when we do change how we speak.
Growin’ it in the ground.