Counter-strategies

Kathryn is a contributing author to the book, At War with Words, published in NY and Berlin, 2003. She has an M.S. in German and Linguistics and has given presentations on this topic at colleges, universities, the Maryland League of Women Voters and other civic organizations.

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“This workshop opened my eyes to the intense level of political dialogue that is going on in the blogosphere and how important it is to respond, when I read inappropriate posts at the end of an online news article.

Seeking to be a civil citizen, sometimes I just want to ignore rude or unreasonable commentators.  Ms. Ruud’s workshop motivated me to speak up and object when I hear political diatribes and offensive or incendiary language.  There are ways to do this without becoming just as bad as the people I am objecting to.

The workshop helped me understand the extent to which extreme language is dehumanizing for all concerned, no matter who is using it against whom. This week, after having taken the workshop over the weekend, I heard someone at a large work meeting liken industry opponents of environmental safeguards to cockroaches.  The audience laughed as a very reasonable and affable presenter explained that industry lobbyists scatter as soon as the light is shining, they only come out in the dark like cockroaches.

In the workshop, Kathryn had given the example of how during the Rwandan genocide Hutus characterized Tutsis as cockroaches, hiding in the grasses, needing to be cut down with machetes. As a result I was unable to laugh with the rest of the audience, and it reminded me how extreme language can seep into our public discourse.  We all need to be more alert to the value of civil debate and to avoid scape-goating and stereotyping of other people.”

April 2011
Rebecca Ruggles
Baltimore, MD

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