Of Face Value and Peace

Yesterday, as we were waiting for a school program to start, a disco remix of Britney Spears’s “Gimme More” came on. The song is not exactly my cup of vodka but I usually just suffer through it, nodding along.

Last night, I had a different reaction. My toddler was with me and when she’s around, the “no swearing” rule is enforced. It’s not just when we speak, mind you. We also steer clear of TV shows, movies or music that feature coarse or sexually explicit language or violent rhetoric (e.g. “May you rot in hell”, “Dadanak ang dugo, gaganti kami” ). It was mainly because my daughter was there that I began to pay attention to Spears’s song, as well as the rap/hip-hop songs that followed.

I stiffened.

I don’t advocate censorship. I just believe in being age-appropriate. Should children be listening to songs about putting women in their place, rubbing up against each other in the club, fist fights, and exchanging bodily fluids? I’m surprised none of the school administrators noticed how many times the words “bitch” and “niggah” was blasted through the grounds.

The school my sister attends is a “peace zone”. So much is it a “peace zone” that my sister’s batch, who were performing Hugo’s Les Miserables, had to argue the merits of using prop guns in a musical set in the French Revolution.Another presentation, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, had a script peppered with “friggin”, “darn it” and “heck”. Gentle introductions to swearing. Unlike the more obvious guns in my sister’s play, these words, like the hip hop songs being played during intermissions, made not a bleep on their teachers’ radars.

Peace springs from a collective worldview. There are no superficial solutions. Forging a culture of mutual respect is guaranteed to be more effective than a temporary gun ban. Peace starts when we choose our words well.

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