13 March 2013: Details, meanings, and your noodle

Details, meanings, and your noodle

When we read, we usually pay little attention to the words writers use to convey their points.  The same is true when it comes to political dialogue in which terms are bandied about that subtly obscure ultimate reality.

A case in point is the so-called sequester, a Damocles Sword the president and congress had created to force them to work collaboratively on getting a handle on the annual federal deficit and the national debt.   A Damocles Sword suggests a pending doom of death, that if one does not take a certain action, an unfortunate outcome will occur.

Sequester, on the other hand, means “to cause to withdraw into seclusion; to set apart, segregate; to confiscate (property) as security against a legal claim.” (American Heritage Dictionary).  It seems incongruent then that something intentionally hidden is equivalent to a cause of imminent death.

Rather than sequester, what would be apropos to call the current budgetary action is “meat cleaver,” which would more accurately describe what is happening to endangered programs.  As the beneficiaries of the guillotine in the French Revolution would’ve found out, their heads were permanently lost, not just hidden.

In this scenario, Republicans are the executioners: Your favorite endangered federal programs under their plan are to be permanently excised.  Like those who lost their heads, once gone, they won’t be coming back.

Republicans claim to believe in “limited government,” but what that really means is they believe in limits on programs they despise—e.g., Social Security, Medicare—but not on the ones they love: subsidies to agri-businesses, gas and oil corporations, and the military-industrial complex.

Another example of loaded language is the ongoing use of the word “entitlement” to refer to Social Security and Medicare.  Both programs, however, are no more entitlements than are wages and compensation for work performed, profits from a business, interest on savings, and returns on investment.

For the most part, recipients have invested a portion of their incomes over the span of decades to fund them.  True, they are entitled to them, but to call them such is to imbue them with a “sense of entitlement,” such as what privileged individuals feel simply because they have been taught from the get-go they are above, better, and separate from the teeming masses—you and me.

The power of language ought not to be underestimated.  In our sound-clip news world, much of the consuming public claims to be thoughtful but ends up reciting shibboleths from cable news and talk-show hosts as evidence of enlightened reasoning.

Even our few remaining dailies are guilty.  Of late, the Denver Post cloaks Dave Kopel of the rightwing Independence Institute with papal authority by calling him a “Second Amendment rights expert.”  Kopel, however, is as much as an authority on the Second Amendment as you and I are and is merely a mouthpiece for a libertarian “think tank,” which in turn is an organization funded by private, sequestered funds from deep-pocket dudes with an agenda that acts with a sense of entitlement and impunity to influence public officials and opinion.

Finally, I almost wanted to weep after reading Vincent Carroll’s column titled “Smearing gun owners in the liability battle.”  Almost.

By using the verb smearing, the owners of guns become the victims rather than the recipients of the objects their objects of choice eject.  Smearing is about intentionally dragging peoples’ reputations through the mud for being simply for being who they are—e.g., Fox mouth Bill O’Reilly’s campaign against Speaker Mark Ferrandino who happens to be gay—with the purpose of depowering them.

Gun owners collectively form a brotherhood, no different than Bronco fans, smokers, and drivers of sports cars.  They are no more victims than were “responsible smokers” who took care not to allow the outcome of their addiction to invade the space of those around them.

In such brotherhoods, the vast majority behaves responsibly, but not all.  The result is the rest of the group is unfortunately at times seen in unfavorable light, which one would think ought to compel the brotherhood’s responsible majority to take steps to correct their compatriots’ poor behavior and not make excuses, like the drumbeat from the gun lobby blaming the misuse of firearms on mental health.

The discriminating reader and listener is a critical thinker, not only about the issue but also in weighing carefully the words the speaker or writer, such as the ones I’ve used in this column.  It’s called using your noodle.

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