2010 – National 2nd Place Award Winner
Audrey Ward, North Carolina.
Is the Pen Mightier than the Sword?
Violence has existed for as long as men can remember. It seems that words merely tumble about in the hostility like bottled letters trying to stay afloat in the ocean during a hurricane. Yet, although violence may try to suppress the power of words for a time, ultimately it is not the wild thrusts of the sword, but rather the seductive dance of the pen, that most deeply impacts society throughout cultures and time.
What is a society? Many animals live in communities and have social hierarchies; they fight to protect their interests in ways eerily similar to human battles. However, animal communication only contains that most basic to survival. Clearly, one of the most definitive differences between humanity and the rest of the animal kingdom is the pen. Language not only allows record-keeping and communication, but it also preserves the essence of human culture: the values and traditions that create a civilization’s sense of self. Thus, the pen- whether it represents oral or written language- is fundamental to the very formation of human society.
One may argue that, even if worlds create society, violence takes a greater part, for it often seems to suppress or control the pen. In countries that suffer violence and oppression for years, such as Sudan, the pen dwindles. Illiteracy becomes standard, and even words may reduce to the basics of survival. Men with the most power for destruction rule society. In Nazi Germany, government-backed violence stifled honest communication and forced newspapers to print propaganda. The regime destroyed works by Jewish or anti-Nazi authors. Because of these examples, many conclude that the sword holds the most power.
However, this conclusion ignores greater truth. In fact, hypnotizing words, not brute force, contributed the most to creating Nazi Germany. At first, many Germans cheered Hitler, an extremely charismatic speaker, and by the time the Nazis revealed their sword, it was too late to stop them. Throughout history, the pen has sparked violence. Nevertheless, words also champion non-harmful or helpful changes. Writers such as Thomas Jefferson formed the foundation for American society. Later speakers fought for labor reform and women’s suffrage. Whether for good or evil, the pen often instigates events that mold society.
The pen truly shows its power when it works to reverse the effects of the sword. Jesus Christ provides a remarkable example of this. violence ended his life on earth. Yet, people in many cultures have heard his teachings of forgiveness, and that influence greatly impacts their societies. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi are just two examples of those whose actions against injustice and bloodshed were influenced by Jesus’ words.
Brutality will always wreak destruction in the world. However, those scars pale in comparison to the overwhelming influence of the pen both to instigate evil and to counter it. Ultimately, it is only the pen that can overcome the hideous onslaught of violence and evil in the world by rallying those who fight the darkness.
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