Reportedly, applications are still being accepted for this campaign season’s vacant vice-presidential slots. On both the Republican and Democratic sides of the ledger it’s wide open. Curiously, Humpty Dumpty might fit the bill as either Donald Trump’s or Hillary Clinton’s running mate. Lewis Caroll’s anthropomorphic, pontificating egg, after all, memorably announced, “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”
It’s increasingly apparent that’s the way the Manhattan mogul regards the use of language; and plainly it’s been the Clintons’ rule of thumb — for them and their entire Democratic/Liberal tribe, truth be told — for decades. As this political season churns bewilderingly onward, long-acknowledged definitions of specific terms, framing some of life’s most basic realities, continue to be turned on their noggins. Unscrupulous individuals, admittedly, have treated words as their playthings for ages — but lately the parties’ front-runners and their corresponding loyalists seem to have driven that trend into overdrive.
“Male”, “Female”? “Man”, “Woman”? “Sex”, “Gender”? Even understandings as fundamental as these have proven themselves grievously susceptible.
Regis Nicoll recently elaborated,
Prior to the sixties, “gender” was used primarily as a grammatical term for classifying masculine and feminine nouns … Once co-opted into the feminist agenda, “gender” was hitched to … terms reflecting free-floating feelings and attitudes rather than hard-wired genetics and biology … [A]s “gender” gained currency, it became a synonym for “sex,” while reducing “sex” to a term for intercourse … “[G]ender” eventually subsumed even biological sex.
Further to that, the suffix “-phobia” began turning up in the most unlikely places. Merriam Webster construes it: “an exaggerated usually inexplicable and illogical fear”. It would typically be applied to designations like: “agoraphobia”, “acrophobia” and “arachnophobia” (irrational fear of public spaces, heights and spiders, respectively).
Presently, however? A person whose opinion makes someone else feel uncomfortable or unhappy is routinely charged with fill-in-the-blank-phobia.
For instance, those recognizing the obvious – that non-procreative, same-sex diddling is neither natural nor healthy — are styled “homophobes”. A father bridling at a grown man in a dress sashaying into the ladies’ room being used by his elementary-school-age daughter — he’s styled “transphobic”.
Marriage? Ha! — rookie stuff. The debauching of that once-venerable concept became official a couple years ago; thanks significantly to our president, and most especially, our highest court. Two males, two females? Whatever. Going to the mat over one-man/one-woman matrimony? No, no — that would be “homophobic”.
And Clinton and Company are exuberantly on board with all these communicatively and culturally
“Tolerance”– heretofore “willingness to accept feelings, habits, or beliefs that are different from your own” — has been transmogrified by authoritarian Leftists to mean: There’ll be hell to pay unless everyone agrees with us and does things our way.
Then there’s “racism”: Progressives impulsively call it on any white person who criticizes any black (or increasingly, Latino or Asian) person for any reason. Meanwhile, we’re lectured imperiously that minorities are positionally incapable of perpetrating “racism” — under any circumstances — textbook definitions notwithstanding — because African-Americans, Hispanics, etc. lack societal power. Or drivel to that effect.
Alas, lately it isn’t only Obama and Clinton enthusiasts who, for their own mercenary purposes, are doing violence to the language.
Commentator Ben Shapiro recently excoriated presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump for behavior befitting verbal-Visigoth liberals: “Having devoured the meanings of the words ‘establishment’ and ‘conservative’…Trump has spent the last several weeks cannibalizing yet another word that used to have meaning: democratic.” Confounding pluralities for majorities, bad-mouthing caucuses and delegates, maligning strategic “deal-making” between political rivals (particularly peculiar for a candidate peddling himself as the ultimate deal-maker), the New York billionaire has repudiated America’s variegated democratic processes as “rigged” — repudiated them openly, repeatedly and erroneously.
How about the complaint over Trump’s notoriously “unpresidential” temperament? The cheap, growingly common retort? “Who’s to say what’s ‘presidential’?” — because words mean whatever we need them to mean, right? Time was “presidential” suggested notions of dignity, professionalism, self-control. Evidently, The Donald’s acolytes would tweak that to include: fourteen-year-old-level vulgarity, red-faced bloviating, vengeful mean-spiritedness.
Particularly demoralizing is when Trump’s corrupting spell leads normally insightful conservatives to resort to their own language-torturing contortions: just the other day I heard my beloved Rush Limbaugh confess, “I don’t think Donald Trump is thin-skinned” (paraphrase). I was momentarily struck dumb. Not thin-skinned? The guy’s epidermis is practically diaphanous. Has there ever arisen a more skin-deficient Oval Office aspirant than Donald Trump? Andrew Jackson, Aaron Burr? Petulancy pikers compared to the GOP’s favorite reality TV star!
The capacity for communication is an impossible blessing. Words are miraculous little clusters of symbols which transmit information, persuasion, inspiration – ideas! For good or ill. They’re the primary agency by which the Creator of the Universe has chosen to reveal Himself to little ol’ us. (“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God”; “Faith comes by hearing … the word of God.”)
Founder Sam Adams charged one of the tyrant’s go-to tools is to “pervert the plain meaning of words”. “[O]ur civilization is rendered vulnerable to the assaults of its enemies,” writes historian Paul Johnson “by the undermining of linguistic truth.” John Milton agreed: “When language in common use in any country becomes irregular and depraved, it is followed by their ruin and degradation.”
Words can clarify situations. A Chinese proverb has it that, “The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names”. Words, contrarily, can muddy things — becoming “the great foes of reality,” as wordsmith Joseph Conrad phrased it; and as Democrats and Donald Trump seem to prefer.
Word-warping is an outraging scandal; it’s been the Left’s stock-in-trade forever, it seems. It’s positively disheartening watching self-identifying “conservatives” dabbling in these same sordid tactics, in service to a candidate who can only run as one of them if they distort what “conservative” means.
What can one say about these terminology-torturers? Their ideology, their ambition, their objectives appear to have induced in them an acute bout of definition-doctoring; also known as “reality-phobia”.
Humpty Dumpty, make that call …