During the 2008 election, Sarah Palin became the darling of many conservative groups in our country. Like many public persons, she "shoots from the hip" in many of her public comments. So it comes as no surprise that in the aftermath of shootings in Tucson many pundits rushed to blame "vitriol" in our public discourse for the event in Tucson. I, too, think that the atmosphere of the hateful, ungracious, and thoughtless words hurling around our country had some effect on all of us.
It may be that the person who shot Congresswoman Gifford did not follow Palin and her language of lock and load and reload. However, public figures must attend to the language they use. There are many cultures within the United States that believe language has a power to transform our realities and even the way we think.
Perhaps my study of the power of language influence leads me to think of the ways other cultures think of language. My personal favorite ideas about the power of language to create realities comes from my early studies of Native American Indian studies. People who know me know that I took lessons from work by Kenneth Burke and work by N. Scott Momaday to launch my thinking of language as a force for creation. One of the many pieces of writing by N. Scott Momaday was a long essay which he had published in a book titled: The Remembered Earth: An Anthology of Contemporary Native American Literature. His essay has the same title as an earlier short story of a similar name. "The Man Made of Words." The section I look to as an example of both native beliefs and a writer's attention to a muse teaches me that calling your muse brings the stories she has to share and allows the writer to use them as a way to reconstruct and see the history he seeks, His Muse or Grandmother is an elderly native woman whom he calls forth so as to hear the stories of his people. These people have passed on long ago and yet a Native Man seeking to learn his people's history is based on the power of calling forth Ko-Sahn who has been with the tribe from time immemorial,
Whether or not Momaday actually sees Ko-Sahn or experiences his history through calling out her name one can see how his calling for her helps him overcome the blank white page he stares at when his stories are still wanting to come forth and teach Momaday the history of his people and the power that language has in creating the realities we live in or with.
I've enclosed a url which will lead others of you to some of N. Scott Momaday's work. In any event, I still feel I can learn a great deal more from reviewing his work and the works of other members of Native American Tribes and My Latina Writers who also use words to better place their histories in the public sphere.