A 12-step Program to American Recovery — Part I

TwelveStepsThumb2by Deana Chadwell
Part I – Calling a Spade • “In the beginning was the Word…” The Apostle John begins his gospel with this phrase and in so doing places language in a pre-eminent position. After all, our universe was spoken into existence, so it is not surprising that our national salvation depends also on words.

In the last few years I’ve found it impossible to have rational discussions about governmental issues, and that difficulty arises partly from the misuse of language.  If words lose their meanings then we have lost our most important method of communication. If we lose our means of communicating, we have no way to solve our problems. I was appalled when Time magazine came out with its “Person” of the Year Award. Time gave that award to the Protester for “…shin[ing] a light on human dignity..” (Memmott) What?! What part of “dignity” involves defecating in public, gang rape, and ruining people’s livelihoods? If that is “dignity” then that word no longer has meaning.

Meaning is under attack in many different ways:

• Political Correctness, which is the most obvious culprit, is not just politeness run amuck. PC is a planned policy designed in the 30’s by a Marxist think tank as a method to destroy Western culture. Look up the Frankfurt School (Lund). People are being shunned, verbally attacked, sued, and fired over using terminology that might be construed as offensive by some imaginary someone, somewhere. People who fall into the PC trap assume that if we call a spade a porcupine, it will grow spines.

• Driving by the neighborhood school this Christmas I was reminded of our PC restrictions; the school billboard read, “ Closed for Winter Break.” Not Christmas break, never mind that there would be no “winter” break if it weren’t for Christmas.

• And events that happened before the birth of Christ are now designated BCE instead of BC — Before the Common Era, in spite of the fact that the “Common Era” started with – you guessed it – the birth of Christ. That’s another troubling trait of PC thought – it seeks to hide the truth.

• I was once lectured sternly for referring to Mexican immigrants as “Hispanic.” Our ESL instructor informed me that “Latino/Latina” was the preferred term. Who knew? Why?

• I’ll never forget calling a travel agent who answered the phone, “Destination Specialist.” She was a travel agent. A spade is a spade. I had faith she could get me where I was going long before she called herself a specialist, so what was the point?

• Even worse, “someone” is redefining words, boldly using them in outrageously incorrect ways and doing it often enough that the careless among us hop aboard, and help rob the original terms of their meanings.  I think of the verb “hate,” which now can only be done by a conservative and refers to the act of disagreeing with a liberal. “Hate” used to be a negative, oftentimes violent emotion, but no longer. Guess we’ll have to make due with “antipathy,” but the Greek words never have the zing of the old Anglo-Saxon ones.

• That same “someone” is inflating words, blowing their definitions way out of proportion. “Harass” used to mean aggressively, negatively, repeatedly bugging another person. Now, it just means telling an off-color joke. “Abuse” used to mean seriously, violently harming another individual. Now, in some circles, it is used for normal parental discipline.

• We also see words defined down to avoid calling a spade a spade. Recently, Obama was caught telling an outright lie about bridges that needed repairing. His spokesperson said he had merely “over-suggested.” Oh, that’s what they call it now.

Language is a contract we make with each other.  We all agree that when I say “tree” my listeners will picture a large woody plant that provides shade and fruit and fuel. If one person pictures a Lamborghini and another an alligator and another a chocolate cake, it gets hard to connect in any meaningful way. One of the most serious sins we can commit is to break that contract. Remember the snake in the garden? “You won’t really die. You’ll just get smart.” Really?  As Adam and Eve discovered, a spade is a spade.

Eve fell for the language changes and that seriously affected her ability to think. (Adam fell for Eve, and that did him in.) One of the first rules of logic is that a thing is what it is and is not something else. My bathtub is not my toenail, which is not my dog. If we attempt to think about a proposed tax cut, it is useful to know if it is in fact a tax cut, or a retraction of a proposed tax hike, or an attempt to confiscate money from the Social Security funding. It makes a difference. When “it all depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is,” we’re in trouble.

Speaking of trouble, no society can function without trust and trust cannot be built in a culture that does not value truth.  All the contracts and regulations in the world cannot keep things running smoothly if we’re all willing to lie to each other. A young man I love dearly once told me that it was OK that the government lied to us since it was for our own good; the end justified the means. That approach worked so well for the Nazis and the Soviets that it’s surprising to find it alive and well amongst our children; we learn nothing from history…

And history is making it clear that our language is under deliberate attack and with it our entire culture. This phenomenon is not unstoppable, natural, linguistic slippage. It is being orchestrated, and therefore it can be stopped, but we need to wake up and get on it. Unless we – and by that I mean most of us – decide that truth is more important than any political agenda, that being able to say what we mean is our most fundamental freedom, no one we elect will be able to save us.

Let each of us listen and read with sharpened intent. Let each of us choose what we say with pure truth in mind. Let each of us speak up when we see our language being bent into the grotesqueries that currently fill our national airways. Let’s begin with total respect for one of God’s greatest gifts – the word.
Deana Chadwell blogs at ASingleWindow.com.

Works Cited:  Lund, Bill. The Origins of Political CorrectnessAccuracy in Academia. February 5, 2000.  •  Memmott, Mark. ‘The Protester’ Is ‘Time’ Magazine’s Person Of The YearThe Two-Way • (1295 views)

Deana Chadwell

About Deana Chadwell

I have spent my life teaching young people how to read and write and appreciate the wonder of words. I have worked with high school students and currently teach writing at Pacific Bible College in southern Oregon. I have spent more than forty years studying the Bible, theology, and apologetics and that finds its way into my writing whether I'm blogging about my experiences or my opinions. I have two and a half moldering novels, stacks of essays, hundreds of poems, some which have won state and national prizes. All that writing -- and more keeps popping up -- needs a home with a big plate glass window; it needs air; it needs a conversation. I am also an artist who works with cloth, yarn, beads, gourds, polymer clay, paint, and photography. And I make soap.
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15 Responses to A 12-step Program to American Recovery — Part I

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    First of all, I’d like to thank Deana for this article. Now I don’t have to buy Jonah’s “Tyranny of the Cliches.” 😀 I’ve heard that’s a very fine book. But I think Deana, in just this first installment, has captured the essence of it. Should she want to pad it into a full-length book, I would wish her the best. But it’s a much more efficient use of time to read an excellent and concise article such as this.

  2. Timothy Lane says:

    I avoid using the word “gay” for “homosexual” precisely because that represents not natural linguistic change, but the hijacking of a word by political activists. Such misusages are extremely common, and the result is that I’ve been writing entries for a Newspeak (or Liberalspeak) dictionary for years. I first saw such a notion about 20 years ago in the Wall Street Journal. Some liberal replied with a conservative version — but since no liberal worth his salt would ever actually pay any attention to opposing views, it had nothing to do with actual conservative usage. (For example, the liberal version cited “authentic black” as meaning “liberal black”, which was an actual liberal usage, and still is. So the respondent gave a conservative definition of “conservative black” — and never mind that no conservative used it that way.) A lot of this is intended as one means of intimidating opponents.
    Incidentally, I encountered a form of this intimidation about 30 years ago, when a game company in Maryland produced a pair of games called Public Assistance (a mockery of the welfare system) and Capital Punishment (a mockery of liberal jurisprudence). Major hobby shops were pressured not to carry it; I found it at a small one, which organized a local gaming group I was in at the time.
    As for BCE, I will note that the AD (meaning the Year of Our Lord) is explicitly religious, so I can understand replacing it with CE. But BCE is meaningless, since BC merely indicates that Jesus Christ was significant enough to lead to this bifurcated time representation, which remains true whether you use BCE or BC. But I guess it helps the Christophobes to pretend otherwise.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I avoid using the word “gay” for “homosexual” precisely because that represents not natural linguistic change…

      Yer dern tootin’. Around Christmas, I still want to be able to sing “Don we know are gay apparel” without getting strange looks. My younger brother has found a rather fitting solution. He sings:

      Don we now our non-gender-specific apparel. He cracks me up every time.

      • Kung Fu Zu says:

        How pathetic is this? The Oxford Compact Dictionary’s definition of “Gay” 1. (especially of a man) homosexual. 2 relating to homosexuals. 3 dated.. light-hearted and carefree. 4 dated… brightly coloured; showy.

        They even have a special box in which they explain the way the meaning of the word has changed.

        A success in the Left’s war on language.

  3. Kung Fu Zu says:

    “The great enemy of clear language is insincerity” and “But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought”

    These are just a couple of quotes from George Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language” published in 1946. Every student of the language and politics should read it.

    The Frankfurt School came up with “Critical Theory” which was developed intentionally to undermine Western Civilization. Look into who the founders were. This type of thinking goes back to Gramsci the Italian Commie who was trying to correct the faults in Marxist theory. Specifically, he wanted to develop a working class culture and to create a new elite through technical education i.e. he was all for technocrats developed from the working class. He maintained that the dominant culture was simply a social construct imposed by those in power i.e. the bourgeois and this had to be changed. Do you hear the not so faint echo “it’s not fair” in this?

    Obama and his like are direct descendants of Gramsci and the Frankfurt School, i.e. they have communist antecedents whose intent was to destroy not only the free market economy, but to bring down Western Civilization. People had better wake up to this and fight.

    • Glenn Fairman says:

      My esteemed professor, the eminent Harry V. Jaffa, referred to homosexuals as sodomites in our seminars. Although I do not use the term in writing, I do use it in my conversations. this is my own hypocrisy, fallen victim through fear, of political correctness. Fine work Deana, once again.

  4. Pingback: A 12-step Program to American Recovery — Part 2 | StubbornThings.orgStubbornThings.org

  5. Pingback: A 12-step Program to American Recovery — Part 3 | StubbornThings.orgStubbornThings.org

  6. Pingback: A 12-step Program to American Recovery — Part IV | StubbornThings.orgStubbornThings.org

  7. RobL_V2 RobL_V2 says:

    Good article – I disagree with the Garden of Eden analogy though.

    Technically the snake was right, he did provide them knowledge and knowledge offers a type of immortally. Humans absent of knowledge or the thirst for knowledge are not fully human. The Garden of Eden parable is so rich with nuance, meaning and wisdom that we cannot do it justice here. Of course this goes to the truth of your article.

    The bible is greatest work of literature Western Civilization has produced and the Left has reduced it to ‘that book intolerant right wing thumpers cling to’. Ironic isn’t it that the Left claims to be the sole proprietor of intelligence, arts and science when they are nothing but a little cabal of inarticulate provincial book burners with tendencies towards violence…

  8. Bell Phillips says:

    Something that always bugs me is the bad rap that Clinton gets on “the meaning of the word is.” He was making a not so eloquent distinction between “is” and “was” in response to a question. He wasn’t really trying to redefine “is”. He was trying to clarify, with little success, that he isn’t currently having sex with Lewinsky, although he did in the past (or at least isn’t denying it.)

    There are plenty of good reasons to pick on Clinton, this isn’t one.

    From http://www.cnn.com/icreport/segment3/

    QUESTION: Mr. President, I want to go into a new subject area, briefly go over something you were talking about with Mr. Bittman.

    The statement of your attorney, Mr. Bennett, at the Paula Jones deposition — counsel is fully aware — it’s page 54, line 5. Counsel is fully aware that Ms. Lewinsky is filing, has an affidavit, which they were in possession of, saying that there was absolutely no sex of any kind in any manner, shape or form with President Clinton. That statement was made by your attorney in front of Judge Susan Webber Wright.

    CLINTON: That’s correct.

    QUESTION: Your — that statement is a completely false statement. Whether or not Mr. Bennett knew of your relationship with Ms. Lewinsky, the statement that there was no sex of any kind in any manner, shape or form with President Clinton was an utterly false statement. Is that correct?

    CLINTON: It depends upon what the meaning of the word is means. If is means is, and never has been, that’s one thing. If it means, there is none, that was a completely true statement.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I’ve thought this was a delightful irony since it happened. I think the reason why Slick Willie’s slippery nature is encapsulated by a comment in which he was technically accurate is simply the sound pattern of the statement (“what the meaning of ‘is’ is”). But I remember that I knew the Lewinsky story was not only plausible but true when a Clinton spokesliar denied the relationship in the present tense (“there is no” rather than “there has never been a”). Later Slick Willie denied having any “sexual relations” with Lewinsky — after which Human Events found a dictionary entry (from Webster’s Third International, as I established by checking it out) defining “sexual relations” as coitus (i.e., purely genital intercourse).

  9. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    He was making a not so eloquent distinction between “is” and “was” in response to a question. He wasn’t really trying to redefine “is”. He was trying to clarify, with little success, that he isn’t currently having sex with Lewinsky, although he did in the past (or at least isn’t denying it.

    Given the setting and context of this interview, it is incredible that you can assert it was a case of an inapt choice of words. This from a law professor and politician who has been praised as the most gifted of his generation.

    No he was dissembling, , deceiving, dissimulating misrepresenting and twisting the truth, in a word lying.

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