oppression: suppression of expression

Oppression, suppression, repression, compression, depression:  what do these words have in common?  Pressure.

Oppression, suppression and repression are words we often hear in conjunction with descriptions of frightening-sounding national regimes.  When we think of Oppression, images of dictators:  Hitler, Stalin, Chairman Mao come to mind.  Along with images of these come images of civilian mass murder at truly mind-staggering levels:  attempted schemes and dreams of carting the entire race of Jews off to the gas chamber, for example.  In China, colossal, truly bedlamic upheaval in every city and town as households were violated, upended and searched; people dragged into the street to be degraded and violated and abused, (by the new daily increasing army of young devotees) dragged off.  Thirty million Chinese citizens murdered in the Cultural Revolution; seventeen million Russian citizens murdered under Stalin.  We think of Mao and Hitler brainwashing little children ’til they came home one day, with newly formulated and minted little all-alike minds, squinting knowing little eyes and pointing knowing little fingers at “Enemies of the State”; just a day ago,  beloved parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles.

Expression has ‘pression’ or ‘pressure’ as its root as well, but unlike the other words, its meaning runs contrary.  The prefix ‘ex’ means ‘out’ or ‘out of’ and when we think of expression, we think of pressure being released.  Express means something comes out. Repress and Suppress mean something is kept in.  Oppress takes two; somebody is basically not allowing somebody else to express; somebody is curtailing somebody else’s ability to express; somebody doesn’t want somebody else to be free.

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