Earlier this year, after shootings in Tucson, I posted a piece about the need for us to be very careful about how we use words:


It was almost the first piece I posted.

I happened to hear today that a union leader in New Jersey, opposed to the policies and actions of  Gov. Chris Christie, referred to him as “Adolph Christie,” and went on to say that just as WW II was needed to defeat the other Adolph, WW III will be needed to defeat the current one.

I couldn’t be more opposed to Governor Christie’s policies (although I’m not a resident of New Jersey). Likewise, I couldn’t be more in support of unions, collective bargaining, and the need to protect the rights of workers and working professionals from unfair and unjust practices by management and employers.

I truly understand the unions’ need at this time to speak very strongly. I never expected in my lifetime to see unions as much on the defensive as they are now.

Yet, it’s imperative to say again, even to those with whom I otherwise agree: Choose your words with utter care.

Toxic language is devastating our society.

It also demeans the people you represent at least as much as it disrespects those with whom you’re in conflict.

The laws of “lashon ha-ra” are universally applicable.

Speak strongly, forcefully, with power, but without personal attack or insult.

Speak about what he’s doing; not what he is

Show that his solution is not the best one — not even the only one.

Make your points terse, inarguable, and memorable. Use each few seconds of media attention to win more public  support.

Rise to true leadership.

But — one might ask — aren’t we allowed to reproach Gov. Christie (for example), if  he’s done, or is doing, something morally or ethically wrong?

First — for the purposes of this short post — let’s simply assume that he is doing something morally or ethically wrong, rather than only doing something with which we disagree.

Even so: “You are not allowed to exaggerate;” “You must have beneficial intentions…;” “You may not derive enjoyment from speaking against that person [e.g. impress your followers with your display of ‘passion’].” [1]

For each of us individually: We’re not union leaders or public figures. But —

Do we personally insult people in power, out of our own frustration and anger?

Is it productive?

Would we want to be criticized that way for our own mistakes or wrong actions?

Is there a better way to forcefully express our feelings?

What might that be?


[1] Pliskin, Rabbi Zelig; “Guard Your Tongue;” p. 60