The old childhood rhyme “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” is a tired canard.
Words can enlighten and educate, but they also have the power to hurt and sting through obfuscation and outright lies. That’s why totalitarian governments, and even emerging autocratic political parties (see the current Republican party), move to squash the freedoms of press, speech, and assembly and, instead, control the words.
I’ve been thinking about the harmful side of language as the balkanization of the United States continues to spread unchecked through the toxic brew of slings and arrows one finds on mainstream social media sites, as well as in the looney recesses of the off-the-grid “dark web.”
At times the two rivers of discord merge and the confluence of craziness injects itself into the American bloodstream and gives birth to political changelings like Hershel Walker, Lauren Boebert, and Marjorie Taylor Greene. God save us.
To observe this meltdown of the public commons as I do on a daily basis is certainly detrimental to my already challenged mental health, but when I am clear-eyed and have not had to call in another script of Xanax, I have actually found some sharable information.
Power of Language
I have observed that whoever owns the language is at a huge advantage. The Republicans have always been more devious and proactive than the play-by-the-rules Democrats when it comes to creating labels and phrases that are difficult to counter. They love to “own the libs.”
What is the comeback for the slogan “pro-life?” “Pro-choice” is hardly in the weight class as pro-life. And you cannot say I’m “pro-death,” although I would argue that given the Republican party’s religious devotion to assault weapons, its embrace of the death penalty, and its history of sending young men and women to fight and die for regime change in places like Vietnam and Iraq, one can make a case that it is actually anything but pro-life.
But language and truth have always had a troubled relationship.
When someone says they are pro-life they mean they are either opposed to the act of abortion and/or opposed to a woman’s right to choose if she wants to terminate her pregnancy. Given that dozens of states are passing punitive abortion laws in anticipation of the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, it is now time to find a new and improved phrase for the anti-abortion movement.
Take Oklahoma (please) where all abortions are now forbidden, not at six or fifteen weeks, but at fertilization. (What’s next, outlawing the mere thought of sex?) When Republican male governor Kevin Stitt signed the bill he defiantly bellowed that Oklahoma, “will always stand up for life.” At fertilization? Dude, are you OK out there in OK?
With that kind of horror show in mind let us use our power of language to more accurately label the pro-life movement. I propose we call it the “forced birth” movement. You will have that baby even if you are 16 years old, cannot afford it, and even if your step-dad who impregnated you now lives in Alaska.
Score another linguistic triumph for the Republicans when they lined up like lemmings behind former disgraced President Donald Trump’s catchphrase in 2016: “Make American Great Again.” What a coincidence — almost the exact saying that worked for Ronald Reagan less the word “let’s.”
The rest of us, those of us in the majority who voted for Hillary, were left to rally behind the rather wimpish campaign slogan “Stronger Together.” Oy, it was like singing “Kumbaya” at a Unitarian potluck.
Six years later, or six years too late, we now know that the true definition of Make America Great Again meant let’s return to the make-believe land of Ward and June Cleaver, the world of white, straight Americans, a time when all those other folks knew their place.
Ah, them good ole days of Bull Connor attack dogs, Confederate statues, Caucasian-washed history, and the cross-burning Klan. All fine people — the non-people of color, that is — famously crowed the former disgraced president. Our BFF constituency boosts the Republicans today.
So once again I propose a change that will attract absolutely no support among the Republicans but is more in line with their true ambitions. “Make America Even More Racist, Ignorant, and Sexist than Ever Before.” A bit wordy perhaps but it can be workshopped.
Look out, friends. The dreaded presidential election cycle of 2024 is now upon us. Results of a recent straw poll among the GOP faithful placed Florida Governor Ronnie DeSantis at the top of the leader board.
He ticks all the boxes for conservatives: hates the Disney mouse and probably Pluto; despises the First Amendment but embraces the Second; questions proven science (no, gov, the earth is not flat); and frankly has one of the dumbest looking resting faces south of the Mason Dixon Line. And, friends, the competition for that last attribute is fierce.
Countenance digressions aside, I have come up with DeSantis’ campaign slogan. Ready?
“I Dig Ignorance Of Truth.” The acronym will fit perfectly on a red cap.Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of The Globe Post.