Editorial—Word Power

This week I’m happy to announce the return of Minds We Meet.  We’re coming back to it with a slightly different style, however.  Instead of just our straight up question and answer format, new Voice writer, Kaitie O’ Shaughnessy, has brought us more of an interview-based profile.  Let me know what you think of it.  I think it gives us a more readable article, even if it’s not as concise as our Q&A format.  But if you disagree and preferred reading students answers entirely in their own words, let me know.

Also this week, we’re talking once again to AUSU’s VPFA, Monique Durette, this time interviewing her about AUSUs moves in the students with disabilities space.  What has AUSU been up to in support of the many members who are taking their education even while dealing with some sort of disability?  Natalia Iwanek digs in to find out.

There is also, right now, a lot of talk about what schools and post-secondary institutions are going to do in the fall sememester, how do they handle COVID-19 on campus?  Adrienne Braithwaite takes note of how moving to a more online manner of delivering courses could wind up giving some much-needed cost savings to students.

I want to be sure to direct your attention to Natalia’s second article, inspired by the reaction to Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling’s recent set of tweets, where she examines what’s come to be called cancel culture.  Social media is filled with calls to stop patronizing certain people or businesses based on how some of these people’s or businesses actions or statements can be seen as furthering types of discrimination against marginalized people.

I’m thinking of this in connection with another quote I saw earlier today, noting that putting someone down because they don’t share your view on an issue is bullying.  I don’t argue that statement, but part of me thinks, “doesn’t that need to be done sometimes?”

One of the most difficult things about trying to be a person who values freedom and justice is to find a way to balance the freedom to be horrible to others with justice.  Obviously, we know that when it comes to physical confrontation, that’s going to far.  You can’t be free to swing your fist when it’s going to impact somebody else’s face.  But with words, that’s much harder to do. We can’t deny, after all, that words have power.  If nothing else, they form rallying cries and bulwarks that people get behind to justify actions that, in other contexts, would be reprehensible.

Should somebody have shut down talk about #pizzagate, a false conspiracy about a paedophilic ring of high powered people who met in the basement of a pizza shop.  A basement that doesn’t actually exist, but the words were nonetheless powerful enough to drive a man to take a weapon into the shop and fire off several rounds in an attempt to “investigate” the ring.  Those who argue for freedom of speech over all never seem to understand or accept accountability for the actions that words can cause.  And this brings us around to cancel culture.  At what point does it become acceptable to bully someone into silence?  How do we judge the harm of words?  I don’t know the answer, but it’s an interesting question.  Enjoy the read, hopefully these words won’t cause any harm.