According to Random House Dictionary, the prefix “un” is defined as “giving negative or opposite force.” Adding this prefix to a noun or a verb, an adjective or an adverb, results in a meaning that is the reverse of its root.
Understanding the definition of this prefix, and in light of the circumstances in which we find ourselves, what “un” work would you use to describe this year to date?
I can think of a few. Let me start with unprecedented.
In our lifetimes, as a society, we have never been called to live the way we are living now. Because of this unimaginable pandemic, with the goal of slowing the spread of COVID-19, we have been asked to follow these almost untenable rules: stay home; wear masks in public; close unessential businesses; quarantine for two weeks if exposed to an infected individual; don’t congregate in groups.
It all seems so unreal.
Because of this confinement, because of this restriction on our liberties, because of the impact on our mental and fiscal welfare, people have protested. Most of these protests have proceeded peacefully. However, in the wake of peaceful demonstrations, unbelievable actions unrelated to the protest of our civil liberties have occurred. Businesses have been looted and destroyed; citizens have been injured; the uninformed and uncaring mob has ruled. Some have simply become unglued.
Undoubtedly, change is necessary. How we get there is the challenge.
Perhaps we can start down the better path if we changed our collective tone. What if we started using a few other “un” words? Here are a few that come to mind: united; union; unless; universal; understand. Below are a few excerpts from documents and speeches in which these words have been used:
Resolution of conflict requires careful navigation. Acting civilly and remaining open to dialogue is critical. New pathways will be constructed if, universally, we work to mend the rifts and repair what has been broken.
There is one more “un” word that I would add to this list. Mythical in its origin, its appearance in literature and lore is meant to evoke hope and joy, to shed light where darkness has fallen.
Perhaps the imagery associated with unicorns is just what we need right now.