By Oscar Richardson
I’ve been contemplating the language we use when talking about our respective political affiliations. I have come to a few conclusions and the biggest one is that the language is being abused for the sake of political schemes. As the saying goes – “He who controls the language wins the debate.” We see this all the time and it seems to me that we should begin making an effort to clarify terms. Right up front lets address something I get asked about occasionally. I use the terms – “so-called Liberal” and so-called Conservative” quite a bit. What’s up with that?
Modifying terms and definition is a classic propaganda tool. In this context it is referred to as ambiguity. Ambiguity is the substitution of meanings for words in order to deceive. Take the word party. I enjoy going to an occasional party with friends; a political party on the other hand, not so much. If I tell you we are going to a party you might be excited until you find out that it is a meeting of a political party you don’t like. Another example closer to home and every day experience is the word Liberal, or Conservative. What these words actually mean as opposed to the way they are used, are two very different animals.
We’ll start with some dictionary definitions. First up is Liberal: 1. favorable to progress or reform, as in political or religious affairs. 2. Supportive of representational government rather that elitist rule, oligarchies and monarchies. Opposed to rule by unitary groups, special interests or singular ideologies. 3. Favorable to or in accord with concepts of maximum individual freedom possible especially as guaranteed by law and secured by protection of civil liberties.
What the heck do you know? I’m a Liberal, at least by the technical definition. I could think of dozens of “Liberals” in the pop culture sense of the word, that aren’t. You can too. Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Keith Olberman and Barack Obama, if their behavior and speech are examined, are in fact what would more properly be classified as Centrarian Federalists. They exhibit a philosophy and outlook that favors the largest and most powerful central government possible. They are not anti-business as some would have you believe. They simply favor business under the firm control of government. They further appear to tend toward a view of the people as the group/class to be ruled over and controlled by various powers under the control of the elite central government. That my friend, is far from “Liberal” in its proper meaning. By commandeering the term, bending it to fit the agenda and using it as a feel-good propaganda term, so-called Liberals have managed to dupe a significant portion of the American public. The Liberal party is not alone in playing the shell game with deceptive words and terminology.
The so-called Conservatives are playing the same game. Let’s check the definition of Conservative: 1. Disposed to preserve existing institutions and stabilize favorable social conditions and to agree with gradual rather than abrupt change. 2. Cautiously moderate or progressive. 3. Traditional in style or manner, avoiding showiness. 4. Having a tendency toward conservation and preservation.
What do you know? I’m also a Conservative by strict definition. Karl Rove and Rush Limbaugh on the other hand are nothing like true Conservatives, even though they loudly and showily proclaim themselves to be. What they would be better characterized in my perception is a political ideology referred to as – Anarcho-Capitalist Libertarians, also sometimes called Minarchists. This philosophy believes that business should be the dominant force in our nation and culture, with all other groups and powers being subservient, and that business should not be regulated, but given free reign. Government is seen as the servant and protector of private commerce and the people are seen as assets and resources to be “developed” (read exploited, my opinion here).
So by redefining the terms, these two powerful groups have seized massive amounts of power at the expense of We the People. Remember We the People? We the People of the United States are, according to our founding document and the intentions and opinions of our founding fathers, the true and rightful government of the United States. All other institutional entities, public or private exist to serve us. What a concept. I personally am in favor of actually putting this Constitutional principle into practice.
Instead, we get elections for sale to the highest bidder. Hypocritical Democrats are screaming about business donating too much money to Republicans. Hypocritical Republicans in turn are screaming about Democrats getting to much money from lobbyists and special interests. The truth is they are all getting too much money – not to mention power – from all of these groups and interests across the board, and at our expense. And there, in the middle of the fray, stirring things up for profit, gladly selling it all is a political party that is unelected and can’t be voted out of office by traditional means. This “political party” is also America’s biggest business and is as predatory as they come. I refer to commercial, or mass media. This duplicitous group would sell grandma if the bid was right. But this is not where I wanted to go this time so I will refrain from being further sidetracked and stick to the language issue.
Let’s look at another subtle but powerful use of switching of words/terms and how it is used in the abortion debate. Suppose you are pro-abortion. Since the word abortion has some automatic negative connotations we decide that we are now all “Pro-Choice.” Anyone who opposes us is now automatically “Anti-Choice.” How fascistic and un-American of these hate mongering . . . Or, suppose we are anti-abortion. Not strong enough to make our case based on a straight forward debate? Change the term to “Pro-life.” Now anyone who opposes us becomes – “Anti-Life” or even worse, Pro-Death. Both sides are taking a disingenuous and harmful approach to the whole debate in my estimation. Civil debate is a thing of the past when this is where our opinions come from. Our direction should come from reason. Passion is a good thing to have but it should be our motivator, not our director.
It creates an emotionally-charged, accusation-based approach to issues (pretty much all issues) that results in defensive aggression and posturing by the opposing sides. Our entire political culture seems to be headed in this direction to greater degrees each day. I see it in the current run of election advertising. My intuition is that the mainstream media, which is losing audience, and therefore influence, likes things stirred up this way on a daily basis. It makes us more dependent on those sources to get our fix of which ever political party “drug” is our preference. My preference is to put an end to the current corrupt state of affairs by whatever means we can muster. These are definitely not my kind of parties and they definitely aren’t fun.
Oscar Richardson is a writer and part-time educator living in Washington State. Married for 30 years to his wife Ramelle, they have a son, a daughter and three grandchildren. Oscar is a U.S. Navy Veteran, having served as a combat corpsman during the ending years of the Vietnam war.