“Clear Speech Takes Courage”

There were plenty of difficult things to watch and read and digest this weekend, in the wake of the UCSB shooting and the horrifying ideology that apparently motivated the attack; Richard Martinez’s response to his 20-year-old son Christopher Michael-Martinez’s preventable death is particularly gut-wrenching. (Watch it here, if you’d like.) Adam Gopnik’s short essay on “the war against euphemism” gets at the bravery behind Martinez’s speech:

Martinez’s brave words put me in mind of a simple point, which I failed to make in a long essay about language this week, or didn’t make strongly enough. The war against euphemism and cliché matters not because we can guarantee that eliminating them will help us speak nothing but the truth but, rather, because eliminating them from our language is an act of courage that helps us get just a little closer to the truth. Clear speech takes courage. Every time we tell the truth about a subject that attracts a lot of lies, we advance the sanity of the nation. Plain speech matters because when we speak clearly we are more likely to speak truth than when we retreat into slogan and euphemism; avoiding euphemism takes courage because it almost always points plainly to responsibility. To say “torture” instead of “enhanced interrogation” is hard, because it means that someone we placed in power was a torturer. That’s a hard truth and a brutal responsibility to accept. But it’s so.

[The New Yorker]

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