Well Fitting Shoes

As children, we are told to respect adults, and for most of us, that meant using courtesy titles such as "Mr." or "Mrs." along with their last names.  Adults chose what they wanted to be called, and we followed suit unquestioningly.  Respect was granted for no other reason than age.

As an adult, I am unwilling to call certain people and events by their self-proclaimed names.  I don't do this out of disrespect or rebellion, but out of honesty and a quest for truth.  Language reflects our thoughts and precedes our actions.  My beef is when language is inconsistent with the action taken.  Some people might be aghast at my honesty here, but if the shoe fits...

Here are some of my least favorite names and labels that I refuse to use along with my replacements:

Ethnic Cleansing.  I refuse to whitewash mass murder.  It is way beyond my comprehension that anyone thinks that the deliberate slaughter of a group of people is cleaning, something we do to our homes and cars.  Was Hitler making Europe more sanitary by murdering Jews?  Was it clean up time in Rwanda?  Were the killing fields in Cambodia a simple matter of scrub, rinse, repeat?  Ethnic cleansing is my number one least favorite term of all time. Replacement: Mass Murder.

Enhanced Interrogation.  Like "ethnic cleansing," this term glosses over human suffering, which in this case is torture.  Even if you don't care that torture is banned by international law, the data show that it is ineffective in obtaining reliable information.  If you still believe torture is an effective means of acquiring useful information from our enemies, then call it what it is.  Replacement: Torture.

White Lie.  This term was originally used to excuse ourselves when we told a lie rather than hurt someone's feelings.  Better to say "I like your new haircut" instead of "What the heck were you thinking?!"  However, it is always better not to lie at all.  How about "Your hairdresser did a great job" or "That cut shows off your eyes better."  You don't have to like the haircut, but you can always find something nice to say.  Many people have expanded usage of a "white lie" to mean just a "little lie," however that is measured.  Dishonesty is, well, dishonest. Replacement: Lie.

Birthers.  Just typing the word "Birthers" raises my blood pressure.  These self-titled Birthers are the people who claim that Barack Obama was born in Kenya and not in Hawaii, thereby rendering him ineligible to be President of the United States.  That his Hawaiian birth certificate has been put forth is unrelated to this cause, which is to remove our democratically elected President from office.  This movement has everything to do with the fact that President Obama is black, making him not "one of them."  Replacement: Racists.

Patriots.  The conservative right wing of the United States has cleverly co-opted the term "patriot" as meaning anyone who agrees with their politics, wants to keep the status quo, and does not question authority.  For example, these self-proclaimed patriots believe that anyone who challenges the decision to go into Iraq is unpatriotic.  (The irony, of course, is that many of the so-called patriots are also so-called Birthers, who are trying to delegitimize the President.)  I am a true patriot and hardly a conservative.  I believe our military are true heroes, and I am both proud of and humbled by their courage.  My idea of patriotism includes working to make the United States ever better, which starts with basic equality for all.  I hereby officially take the word "patriot" back.  Replacement: Right Wing.

Pro-Life.  This term is used by people who are against a woman's right to choose to have an abortion.  By implication, those of us who support a woman's right to have an abortion are "anti-lifers." Since I am an advocate for all life (including non-human animals) and a woman's right to have an abortion, I don't consider myself "anti-life," but just the opposite.  Either you support a woman's right to choose an abortion or you don't.  My goal here isn't to debate abortion, but to reject the deceptive terminology.  Replacement: Anti-Choice.

Free Speech.  No one likes a good political debate more than me, especially when I learn new information and gain new insights.  I may not end up agreeing with my debate opponent, but I very much respect anyone who uses facts to support their opinion.  The recent shouting, sometimes escalating to violence, that has been the hallmark of too many Congressional town hall meetings has no resemblance to a healthy debate or exchange of ideas.  These people, many of whom are not constituents, attend such meetings for the sole purpose of disrupting and instilling fear.  When our foreign enemies do the same thing, we call them terrorists.  Replacement: Political Terrorism. 

What all of these terms have in common is the use of words that typically connote positive images.  Who isn't for "cleansing" or "life?"  Even our nation's founders were very concerned about "free speech."  "Enhanced" almost always means "improved," usually a good thing.

If you behave in a way that makes you proud, then you don't need to dilute your beliefs with flowery language.  If this post makes you angry, then ask yourself why?  Have I pushed a button?  Why do you think I've hit a nerve?  Don't blame me--I'm just a patriot exercising my right of free speech.  Blame it on well fitting shoes.

Fruitful Conversations