The Consolation of Words

I am surrounded by an overabundance of words, notes, typed pages, scanned sections of articles. Words inspire me, point to the limits of what I know, depress me, console me, and force me into a dialogue with myself that often goes on for too long. Words help me to understand what it means to grow old, fall in love, struggle with the endless mediocrity that now defines culture in the age of Instagram. But most of all words keep me going, allow me to walk into the same room through different doors, make me humble, and offer the gift of being able to lift ideas into the public realm. Words cower, dance, offer hope, and make us realize how imperfect we can be. Words make pain visceral, break into routines, and turn desire into an afterthought. Words give pleasure meaning and turn solidarity into a gift. Words make the dream of immortality a distant memory and the body an unfaithful companion.  Words in books overflow in every space I inhabit waiting to unleash wisdom, sorrow, and dangerous memories. Words inspire and energize, and add to  my limited imagination, not always for the better. Words on hold waiting to be spoken, written, embraced, and forgotten. Words in letters and notes that I can no longer bear to read. Words on a page, under an image, in a sentence, spoken at mass rallies provide voice to the voiceless, and  offer possibilities that hide in their often-elusive meanings.  Words make clear that hope is never far from despair. Words should not always be linked to action. Words keep conscience alive and hope practical. Words provide solace and are crucial in preventing justice from going dead in us. Words tell us we are not alone and that the web of connections with others are always close by.

Henry A. Giroux currently holds the McMaster University Chair for Scholarship in the Public Interest in the English and Cultural Studies Department and is the Paulo Freire Distinguished Scholar in Critical Pedagogy. His most recent books are America’s Education Deficit and the War on Youth (Monthly Review Press, 2013), Neoliberalism’s War on Higher Education (Haymarket Press, 2014), The Public in Peril: Trump and the Menace of American Authoritarianism (Routledge, 2018), and the American Nightmare: Facing the Challenge of Fascism (City Lights, 2018), On Critical Pedagogy, 2nd edition (Bloomsbury), and Race, Politics, and Pandemic Pedagogy: Education in a Time of Crisis (Bloomsbury 2021). His website is www.