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TRANSLATION: MEMPHIS: Chains

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I was strolling about the Internet recently (is that we do now -- virtually stroll?) and stumbled upon a website, www.wordspy.com, that chronicles the progression of the English language through its acquisition and alteration of words and phrases.

While chewing on such juicy phrases as time-porn, privatopia and belligerati, I began to think about the ways in which the words that we use define the parameters of what may be possible in terms of addressing social issues, be they economic, cultural, or political.

As an example, let’s consider the term “pickade,” which is a linguistic cocktail blending the terms picket and blockade. This weekend, as many of you may know, there was a “Life Chain” that spread from downtown Memphis all the way to Collierville.

As far as I could tell, the gist of the event was for involved parties to stand along the side of the road toting banners that expressed their stance on the pro-choice/ pro-life issue.

Now technically, this would be a picket scenario, not a pickade, as said protesters were not in the street, but standing along its edge. However, I think there could be a case made that this was an ideological pickade.

To be frank, I think that if somebody wants to broadcast their values, then more power to them. Who am I to say that those particularly involved in the aforementioned controversy should not be free to express their take on it? (To say otherwise I would run the risk of becoming a member of the belligerati -- or one who uses anger and controversy to make a point.)

That’s not to say that I agree with the methodology, and to be honest I don’t agree with the political statement either. But that’s not the point.

When it comes to a topic as delicate as the abortion issue has grown to be, I often wonder about the effectiveness of a non-interactive model of communication.

Here’s why. In a recent survey completed by Self magazine, published in their October issue, Memphis was given the dubious distinction of being the unhealthiest city in America.

This um, honor, was calculated when Memphis was compared to the 200 metro regions included in their analysis. Wow.

Factors contributing to this ranking include the occurrence of violent crimes and rapes at nearly double the survey’s average, an above average STD rate, and an elevated number of vehicular deaths.

With this taken into account it seems that an effective model of decreasing the perceived need for abortions, whether you think that there should be a choice or not, would be to take an active stance in bettering the community. I am not convinced that picketing is the way to go.

And I’m especially unconvinced that the women effected by said rates of violent crime and rape, who may have become pregnant in the process, need to be subjected to a barrage of signage that would have to make their decision-making process that much more devastating. Sure, this is a hypothetical possibility, but nevertheless, a group that bases their politics on their compassion for the unborn might do well to show the same compassion for the women involved.

The model chosen this weekend seemed more like a “pickade,” then, in terms of the public presentation of an extremely emotional debate in which there is no dialogue with the opposition.

Why not take the time spent creating that signage, and go work in a local community center helping people? Why not take an active stance that speaks louder than a piece of cardboard, and help some of the women involved rather than vilifying them?

Again, I don’t think it’s up to me to decide for people whether they want to be pro-choice or pro-life, but unless people come together to understand the factors that create the problem in the first place, I don’t think something like a Life Chain can be effective model of sparking change.

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