From the Clocktower – Are we learning the right words?

From the Clocktower – Are we learning the right words?

As an avid reader, a writer and a crossword puzzle enthusiast, I like to think I have a well-rounded vocabulary. I like words. I like to learn new words, and find out the meanings of words I didn’t already know.

I heard some words this weekend, though, and I’m concerned that vocabulary lessons in our homes and schools are falling flat, because I heard people using words that they couldn’t have possibly meant in the context of the conversation. I spoke to a few other people who had the same experience.

Some of those words were:

“Cool.”

“Wicked.”

“Gnarly.”

“Awesome.”

“Neat.”

In general, those are simple words. They were being used, however, in the discussion of the fatal accident in front of HEB on Friday night. And it wasn’t just adults using these words to describe this accident – there were children, as young as third grade, according to a teacher friend of mine, describing the wreck the same way.

That leads me to wonder… Do people understand what those words mean, or have we become so far-removed from a society of compassionate, understanding people that we actually believe the use of those words when discussing a death is appropriate?

Death is not a spectator sport, nor is it an entertainment format. And I’m having trouble understanding, this week, how we got to a point that human tragedy is a source for gossip, and why in the world we’re teaching our children that it’s “Cool,” “neat,” or “awesome.”

The more appropriate words, I think, are:

“Sad.”

“Tragic.”

“Upsetting.”

“A shame.”

I saw something on Friday night that, after what feels like a lifetime in this industry, I’ve never seen before. I actually saw families stopping at HEB, with children in pajamas, getting out of their cars to see the accident. I have friends who saw others park their vehicles as far away as Pizza Hut and Expert Tire to walk to the scene and observe. Before the deceased had even been transported from the scene, before the other driver was released to go home, people were gossiping on social network sites about it, with some even offering to share their pictures of the body.

Their excuse for doing so, of course, was the idea that the pictures were going to be in the newspaper anyway, so why shouldn’t they be able to share them.

To me, the answer is simple. I have enough respect for the family of the deceased to have never even considered taking a photograph of the body. I have enough respect for the families in this community to understand that grief is sacred, and intensely private. I cover fatality accidents because it’s my job. If it wasn’t my job, I certainly wouldn’t do it as a hobby, or as a form of entertainment.  And frankly, I’d come absolutely unhinged if that had been my friend or family member, and I saw people treating his death as a form of Friday night entertainment.

In my heart, Lockhart, I know we’re better than this. I know that we’re a caring, compassionate and empathetic community. I know that we care for and respect one another, and I hope that we’ll remember, in the future, to show it – regardless of the circumstances.

kathibliss@post-register.com

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