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  • Writer's pictureL.M. Pierce

The Power of Language

Story and narrative have been a fundamental part of my life. Growing up with Deaf parents and family members, my introduction to language, before I could speak words, was through spatial and pictorial communication: Sign Language. Movement of the body brought stories to life—the blur of fingers, the slap of palms, the soar of exclaiming eyebrows—all of these were part of a complex and nuanced language that formed the bedrock of my understanding about how we process, express, and retain information and explore character.

This defining style influences my writing and speaks to the way I conceptualize my work—not just as moving pictures in my mind, but a dimensional cinematic experience that moves through the body as well.

It also shapes my work as a therapist. We store so much information inside our bodies, whether we are conscious of it or not, and the stories there will find a way to surface. I try to give myself and my clients as many outlets as possible for those reveals so they can come out more directly, instead of sideways. I write all this, reflecting on my own complicated history with my body and the continuing challenges I have in the health realm. I often wonder if the early lessons of expression have contributed to my resilience and what my life would have been like without them (a frightening thought).

Thinking about bodies also spotlights the violence so many bodies in our society have endured. Black and Brown people, Members of the Global Majority, have been hunted, battered, murdered, and exploited since the origin of our U.S. story. The bodies putting themselves in harm's way all around us, fighting for liberation, for safety, for witness, bear the concentrated force of our laser-focused hate and fear. They also place themselves at greater risk of infection as Covid-19 ravages our country and the world. Yet, this risk is necessary. I read a quote that demanding non-violence from those being oppressed and persecuted is racist--and I quite agree.

Though I squirm at the videos and pictures of the brutality and rage, I also know this is necessary. I'm going to do a white thing and quote MLK because "a riot is the language of the unheard" is absolutely fucking relevant to what's going on. Telling people to calm down and take the moral high ground as they're being murdered and watching their loved ones be targeted, is oppression.

I wonder what the story might have been for each of these people had they lived to see a different ending. Remember the next time you're reading a story you're completely engrossed and moved by--if the pages suddenly went blank in the middle or toward the beginning... so I grieve the stories that will never be completely told or known because they were murdered by the machine of supremacy.

As I grieve today I am also grateful for language, for story, for our bodies, the loads they carry for us, and the pain they must endure to survive in this world we have created.

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