Letter: Vocabulary Can Be Fun, and Words Matter, Today in Easton More Than Ever

To the Editor:

The mailer we all received this week from “Citizens for Responsible Government” shocked, disappointed, and angered many of us who live in Easton. It is a diatribe against efforts to make Easton a town that cares about social justice and proves it by embracing change.

The pamphlet begins with, “Do these words mean anything to you?” Nice that they share my interest in definitions, but I decry their use of words to persuade others to amplify their willful misrepresentations and lies.

There are too many examples to list here. Suffice it to say that, in the opening pages, the following words are used in reference to the heading, “Critical Race Theory — Social Justice — Intersectionality”: Revolutionary, infected, foist, dangerous, divisive, run-away train, knee-jerk reaction, poisonous. Repeated use of this incendiary vocabulary in political persuasion is a signal that what you’re reading is intended to incite only emotion and is not based on measured analysis or careful thinking.

Clearly, words matter. And when people are throwing them around like this to make a point, it’s crucial to know exactly what those words mean.

During the public comment portion of the January 7, 2021 Board of Selectman meeting, an Easton citizen spoke against seeking diversity in Easton, explaining to the BOS and the public that diversity divides us because the words “diversity” and “division” come from the same root.

Someone forgot to check her etymology! You can see that one word begins with “dive” and the other with “divi.” This is a clear hint that they probably have different roots and unrelated definitions.

Sure enough, “diversity” comes from the Latin word “diversus” which means “turned in different directions.” “Divisive” comes from the Latin word “dividere,” to divide. Diversity is far removed from division. In Easton, it’s the quest for diversity that causes division. Those who fear the inclusion of diversity in our lives are the ones dividing our town.

Another citizen, at the February 18, 2021 BOS meeting, called George Floyd a “criminal,” clearly suggesting that this label justifies his murder. A criminal is a person who has committed a crime. You’ve received a speeding ticket; you’re a criminal. Does this mean a policeman is allowed to stand on your neck for nine minutes? Labeling George Floyd a criminal is irrelevant to understanding and judging how he died. It’s choosing an inflammatory word to attract attention and make a point that is actually empty and misleading. Those who use meaningless labels to justify police brutality are dividing our town.

How we use words is just as important as what they mean. Remember to apply your knowledge of words to assess what you read and determine what you believe. It will help you understand the difference between divide and diversify, and decide whether you want Easton divided — or if you want your town to embrace different directions.

Maggie Silverstein

Easton

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