Get ready for something really awkward to come out of my mind and onto the page:
Governor Paul LePage may have a strategy that we should all really consider adopting in terms of interpersonal communication.
I know, I know. I would have bet good money I could have gone his entire term (or terms if we’re unlucky) without ever saying that.
Certainly since taking office in 2011, LePage has, as leader of our fair state, provided us with a non-stop parade of words and actions worthy of head scratching at lice-infestation levels. It seems when LePage opens his mouth, his foot inevitably follows.
The latest newsworthy verbal flub came last month after allegations that at a private GOP event, our honorable governor made that not-so-honorable statement that President Barack Obama didn’t like white people. Yes, he claims not to have said that, but let’s face it, the man vowed to tell Obama to “go to hell” when he got elected president, so my money’s on the allegations rather than the refutation.
Regardless, that latest loose-lips fiasco must have helped drive home for LePage that his mouth was starting to become a problem and he needed a solution. According to numerous press reports LePage’s strategy for minding his words now involve a roll of duct tape and the pronouncement that when the urge strikes to make an off-color comment, he is simply going to tape his mouth shut.
It may be the first time the governor got a laugh out of me, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only detractor amused at his words. For that matter, upon further examination, he may be may be onto a potential money-maker: He can join forces with his former employer, Marden’s, and we can turn this into a made-in-Maine thing. Can you see it? Duct tape with “Mind Your Words” emblazoned on it throughout the roll. Caution tape for waggling tongues.
All jokes aside though, while it may be fun to have a laugh with (or at the expense of) our governor, he may actually be on to something we could all get behind. In recent years, words have become a currency that is thrown around with little thought of the expense. Last year, we saw Missouri GOP candidate Todd Akin proclaim that “legitimate rape” rarely causes pregnancy. Akin came to regret those words as he saw his bid come to an end. Try telling a rape survivor that her rape was not legitimate just because she didn’t get pregnant.
Likewise, race and class relations continue to spiral downward in this country and at the heart of it is often the choice of words that we use. Even when we are trying to say the same thing, often our choice of words and the tone of our words prevent us from being heard. Instead, when we talk about matters of difference, our tongues become daggers to hurl at each other.
Our fast-paced living, especially in this digital age, has us using more words than ever and spreading them to more people than we could in the past. At the same time, the odds are greatly increased that our words will not be received in the spirit that we meant them. How many Facebook discussions on already sensitive topics have created tensions that tear friendships and even families apart?