Jewish World Review June 9, 2006/ 13 Sivan,
Clear words, clear thought
Debating social and political issues of the day almost
always guarantees arguments and
bickering. Much of the angry disagreement can be chalked up to pure
ideological divides, of
course, but I can't help but believe that some of it is because
people just don't speak
clearly. Words are so important for honest debate and so much of
the time words are not used
honestly - on purpose.
A case in point is the issue of abortion rights.
People in favor of legalized,
government sanctioned abortions never label themselves as
"pro-abortion," which would be
intellectually honest. Instead they call themselves "pro-choice,"
which has a much more benign
connotation. "Choice" is a good thing, right? Don't we all like
having many choices? Why go
to an ice cream shop that only carries three flavors when you can go
to an ice cream shop with
Similarly, the opposition call themselves
"pro-life," not "anti-abortion." Being "anti"
anything is stringent sounding; while being "pro" something is a
positive attribute in our
society. In our non-judgmental culture it is a good thing to be
"for" stuff and a bad thing to
be "against" stuff - any stuff.
Both sides in the debate engage in semantic game
playing in order to muddle their true
intentions and to spin their viewpoint into the best light possible
so as to win people over to
their side. It is a total dishonest use of words. The debate is
clearly "pro-abortion" verses
"anti-abortion." "Choosing" and "living" is technically part of it,
but it muddies the issue.
Abortion. Should women be allowed to get it on demand and should
the government (tax-payers)
foot the bill, or not? That is the honest debate.
Another disingenuous term that we hear constantly is "same
sex marriage." While the
meaning of the term is certainly honest enough, the psychological
sound of it, (just as in my
"pro-choice" example), has a softly benign quality. "Same sex
marriage" is a whole lot easier
to accept than "homosexual marriage" which, of course, is the same
If we were to frame the issue as a debate between
"traditional man/woman marriage"
versus "homosexual or lesbian marriage," it has a harsher sound to
it but it would be more
honest than using the "same sex" label. If one side is in favor of
"same sex marriage" then it
stands to reason that the other side is in favor of "opposite sex
Now, and here is why words are so important, ironically,
"opposite sex marriage" almost
sounds WRONG, while "same sex marriage" sounds like the PROPER way
to go! This is because in
our culture being "the same" is looked on as being right, while
being "opposite" is being
wrong. Interesting? By twisting words around, we have completely
reversed their meaning.
Sometimes society will change what we call things so that
they actually sound better (or
at least not as bad) than they really are. For example, in the old
days people knew if they
were too sexually permissive there was a chance of catching a
venereal disease. Venereal
disease sounds scary. And someone who had "V.D." was a social
pariah. Today the politically
correct term is "STD" (sexually transmitted disease). For some
reason STD doesn't sound as bad
as the old V.D. sounded. STD sounds sort of cool - like a new
sports car or something.
For decades now, "gay" has come to be the euphemism of choice
for both homosexuals and
lesbians. There's no denying that saying, "David is gay," is much
kinder and gentler sounding
than saying, "David is homosexual." "Gay" is a light, airy, bouncy
term that really takes the
sting out of being a homosexual. The word "homosexual"
traditionally has a negative
connotation; the word "gay" is happy and cute.
Likewise, proponents for open borders and total amnesty never
use terms such as "illegal
aliens," or "illegal immigrants" to describe, well, illegal
immigrants. They prefer
euphemistic labels such as "undocumented workers." And some
pro-amnesty groups and even the
media, like the Los Angeles Times for one, simply refer to the
illegals as "immigrants,"
conveniently leaving out the ILLEGAL part. Dishonest? You tell me.
But the politically correct euphemism of the century has got
to be "The War on Terror."
We are not at war with "terror" any more than we were at war with
imperialism and fascism
during World War II. We were at war with Japan and Germany, who
just so happened to be
imperialistic and fascistic. And now we are at war with radical
Islam, who just so happens to
use terrorism as their main weapon. Radical Islam declared war on
Western Civilization; they
themselves have said as much - many, many times. But we are so
politically correct today that
we are afraid of actually pinpointing an enemy and calling them by
their right name. This
fuzziness of language may well be our downfall.
We need to be clear in our social debates and in our
intentions, both as individuals and
as a nation. Words matter. As Samuel Beckett once said, "Words are
all we have." If we can
no longer call something by its correct name, then we will soon lose
the ability to think
clearly. A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but we have
all agreed on calling that
particular flower a "rose" - when one says it smells like a rose,
you instantly know what the
thing smells like. Let us not call a rose by anything else. To do
so would be dishonest.
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JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a
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