“What exactly would using this label accomplish? What exactly would it change? Would it make ISIS less committed to trying to kill Americans? Would it bring in more allies? Is there a military strategy that is served by this? The answer is none of the above. Calling a threat by a different name does not make it go away. This is a political distraction.”
Words give meaning to what we believe, think, hope, dream, in essence to who we are. Words matter a great deal in our interactions with others, but they matter infinitely more to political leaders, especially the one joined at the hip to his teleprompter.
I’m going to divide this post into two parts. This first part is just a
short , okay on rereading this, I admit it’a lonnng, rambling commentary on Leftists in America defining events, creating phrases to alter perception of events, and editing out key information to alter official documentation of events, all to create a version of events that fits their political agenda. The second part, well, I want to discuss some things I’ve been thinking about in regards to leaders trying to control what people think.
Years ago, I read a book, “The Words We Live By: The Creeds, Mottoes, And Pledges That Have Shaped America”, by Brian Burrell, that I had signed out at my local library. A few years ago, I was thinking about that book and ordered it. Brian Burrell related how he began his journey into collecting and studying the history of “the words Americans live by” watching and then later helping his father collect the words and messages on public monuments, tombstones, on buildings, etc. His father’s interest in these words spurred an interest and hobby in Burrell as a young boy, which he pursued into adulthood and ended up writing a book about these words.
Above: A book my mother sent me when I was a young soldier in Germany in 1980. She added a four-leaf clover that my father found, because he was an expert at finding four-leaf clovers. As a child, when my brothers and sisters and I were crawling around on the ground in a clover patch searching for a four-leaf clover, my father stood there and within a few seconds he would lean down and find one. He said, “You need to stand back and look at the entire patch.” That is big picture/little picture;-)
I’ve been not only fascinated by words from my earliest memories, but intimidated by words. I admire great orators and people with perfect elocution. Being a life-long recovering stutterer, with bouts of sudden relapses, I stick to safe, easily pronounced words and avoid public-speaking at all costs, knowing the chances of turning into a blubbering mass of incoherent muck is very high. As a child I spent time almost every day studying the dictionary. I loved Eliza Doolittle in “My Fair Lady” and could relate to her joy at mastering, “The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain.” One of my sons returned from a trip to PA recently where he had visited my family and he came bearing gifts, among them was a cookbook compiled by my childhood church and another old dictionary, which one of my sisters felt sure I’d like.
Growing up, our elderly pastor’s wife, a lovely Jewish lady educated at Columbia’s Teachers College, devoted a great deal of time trying to instill in me an appreciation of opera, classical music, the arts and learning in general. That a Jewish young lady from New York City could fall in love and marry a backwoods Protestant pastor and settle happily into a PA Dutch rural community is one of those quintessential American stories.
The parsonage was right across the road from my childhood home, making our pastor’s wife our next-door neighbor too. I felt like I had been blessed with another grandmother to have her as our neighbor growing up, with her treating my brothers and sisters as part of her family and her devotion to taking me under her wing, to teach and guide me. She kept reminding me that I needed to always pursue a classical liberal education. She let me borrow her copy of Bartlett’s Quotations many times and she often would hand me slips of paper where she had jotted down memorable quotes that she thought I would find interesting and like Burrell’s father and his notebook of American words, my pastor’s wife urged me to keep a notebook of quotes. I still have that notebook and I still jot down quotes often. I also listen carefully to the words political leaders use, but what you need to beware of always is the words they refuse to use and try to banish others from using.
Written words often stick in my mind for years and listening to President Obama and his entire administration explain their concerted purge of any mention of Islam and Jihad from the military and federal government terrorism training and the insertion of Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated “Islamic experts” into government positions to guide (control) the “narrative”, well, it’s obvious some words matter a great deal to President Obama too.
This book on words that shaped America came to mind when I listened to President Obama and Hillary try to trivialize the importance of the words we use to describe the radical Islamic terrorists, who have declared jihad on America. Of course, President Obama, CAIR and many others, who refuse to use the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism”, also rush to insist those engaged in committing murderous acts of terrorism against Americans, while proclaiming they are waging jihad, aren’t really Islamic. They say this, while, many revered Islamic scholars in the Muslim world praise these acts as totally in keeping with Islamic law.
Throughout the past seven years of the Obama administration, reports occur with alarming regularity about incidents of military training documents being purged of any references to Islamic terror, Christian evangelicals and former American soldiers being listed as likely potential “right-wing terrorists”, an actual act of Islamic terrorism at a US military installation being dubbed “workplace violence”, official documents and videos being edited, more than 50 intelligence analysts in Iraq claiming higher ups are altering their reports to feed the Obama “narrative“, WH administration staffers engaged in rewriting their version of events into a “narrative” to fit their political agenda, and even the administration sending the national security adviser to the Sunday morning talk shows to cast an American soldier, who deserted his unit in Afghanistan, as an “American hero”.
President Obama’s angry scold, about which words we use to describe the latest act of radical Islamic terrorism on June 12, 2016, at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando,FL., matters a great deal, because a full-court effort has ensued, with many leftist publications, pundits and the White House determined to cast doubt on this being a “radical Islamic terrorist” attack. When the DOJ tries to edit the 911 tapes, then rewrites the transcript, omitting the terrorists’s pledge of allegiance to ISIS and a full-court effort plays out where a new “narrative” is advanced, to deceive the American public, it’s obvious some words matter a great deal to President Obama.
In two weeks time the media, in collusion with the Obama administration muddied the information about the Orlando shooting to the point that reading many left-wing pundits and publications, it seems like they hold Christian haters responsible for the Orlando shooting and not the radical Islamic terrorist. The Obama administration could take a disgraced and dishonorable soldier, SGT Bergdahl, and with the full power of the commander-in-chief’s office, attempt to convince the American people this soldier served with “honor and distinction”. The bold-faced lying and rewriting the “narrative” (the official record) by the highest level of our government should alarm every American.
Years ago, many of us were dismayed by Obama’s “hope and change” and “fundamental transformation” hollow phrases gathering wings and lofting his rapt followers into flights of fancy and head-in-the-clouds euphoria. Over seven years later, hearing President Obama dismiss which words are used to describe “radical Islamic terrorist” attacks in America, it seemed not only disingenuous, but downright deliberately deceitful. His relentless “War about Words” during his tenure as President really has led to a “fundamental transformation” of America. We now have Americans firmly entrenched into tiptoeing through an ever-changing minefield of words that are dangerous to use in public and words you must use to avoid public ostracism. Washington DC initiated a new speech code for the workplace to show sensitivity to transgenders, with made-up words, like ze and zir that they insist workers use. Facebooks has over 50 gender choices to choose from and old relics, like me, still live in a world where gender is based on human biology. The insistence on specific new pronouns all workers in Washington DC should use, with the guide being for Washington DC employers to be the trainers and implementers of this new speech code, replete with examples of “best practices” to avoid offending transgender people offers an example of the brave, new world American leftists are imposing on Americans. The Leftist War about words blows hot across America.
Alas, many Republicans and conservatives aren’t immune from being easily conned by demagogues either. “How could so many supposedly smart, independent-minded Americans fall for Obama’s hollow rhetoric?”, many Republicans and conservatives lamented, then along came Donald J. Trump selling the American Dream encapsulated in the hollow phrase, “Make America Great Again!” In even greater dismay, many Republicans and conservatives began to see fellow Republicans and conservatives fall under the spell of Trump’s reality-TV style demagoguery, presented in fast-talking, brash NY street tough antics.
Trying to explain this dichotomy of Americans who boldly proclaim their principles and independent-thinking, then become devoted followers of obvious con men and demagogues, I remembered this book by Brian Burrell. He relates DeTocqueville’s observations on Americans from 1831 and perhaps this American characteristic still gets passed on in our cultural DNA. DeTocqueville identified the American reliance on “experts”, that still persists today:
“On his visit to the United States, Tocqueville noticed that the Americans he encountered tended to exhibit two opposing tendencies: they did not want to be told what to do or think, and yet their collective will could easily be rallied behind certain carefully chosen words, to which he gave a name. “In the United States, Tocqueville concluded, “the majority undertakes to supply a multitude of ready-made opinions for the use of the individuals who are thus relieved from having to form opinions of their own.””
pages 4-5, The Words We Live By: The Creeds, Mottoes, And Pledges That have Shaped America, by Brian Burrell
This word game charade goes much deeper than President Obama and it goes far deeper than just the debate over what to call the terrorists who scream, “Allah Akbar!
Today, the FBI questioned Hillary Clinton for 3.5 hours according to the news reports and here again is a politician who plays endless semantics games. She’s married to the former President who turned parsing into a deluxe linguistics game of charades…… “that depends on what is, is”. Hillary has been at pains to explain the FBI investigation as a benign “security review” today. Here’s an ABC report on her campaign’s statement:
“Secretary Clinton gave a voluntary interview this morning about her email arrangements while she was Secretary,” spokesman Nick Merrill said. “She is pleased to have had the opportunity to assist the Department of Justice in bringing this review to a conclusion. Out of respect for the investigative process, she will not comment further on her interview.”
The political Left in America has been waging a war about words for decades. President Obama and Hillary Clinton didn’t invent this game, in fact, the strategy of people in power, to control what people do, think, write and say is part of the history of the world’s tyrants and it’s one that Americans took a stand against from the beginning of our republic. Americans refuse to bow to rulers and we refuse to allow the government to control our speech. Whenever people in power exert a great deal of effort into controlling which words, not only the government uses, but which words the media uses, which words students and teachers can and cannot utter, and even policing the words they deem as “hate speech”, beware!
Americans have been conditioned to believe they are so unique and safe from despotism, that they have no idea how quickly FREEDOM can be lost.
Americans need to be constantly vigilant about those in power creating their own version of history, as part two of this “War about words” will be about some of history’s lessons learned in the long record of those with power trying to control what other people not only do, but what they can say and think.
Finally, one of my favorite quotes is from the 1902 American novel, The Virginian by Owen Wister, that I’ve loved for decades, because it speaks to so many American themes that are near and dear to my heart, the battle between good and evil, the matter of seeking justice, the American scorn for elites and social snobbery, the American spirit of rugged individualism, the belief in pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps and our eternal optimism and can-do spirit. Plus, there’s a charming love story running through the novel too. And of course, The Virginian became the stereotype for the American cowboy and I just adore American cowboys, past and present;-) The quote goes to this warning about being careful what you let other people convince you to think and believe:
“When a man ain’t got no ideas of his own, he’d ought to be kind o’ careful who he borrow ’em from.”