When did our language morph into a barrage of rhetoric and vituperative misrepresentations? Take the war in Iraq. From the start of his putative war on terror, the president connected 911 and Iraq, mostly by innuendo. He also claimed Iraq had WMD. As a result many Americans believed our invasion was justified despite all evidence and expert opinion to the contrary. And in the aftermath of the initial military incursion, Secy Rumsfeld described the massive looting as just something free people sometimes do, an odd take on freedom one might opine.
When no WMD were found our leaders began describing the invasion as a war of liberation although that word seems to have lost its original meaning and become analogous with chaos as Iraq became a magnet for terrorists in the region who joined with locals in an ever-widening insurgency. Still the president insists we are winning the war on terror and in Iraq despite a rising death toll and massive devastation of infrastructure.
Anger in our country finds expression in suggestions by some that we should turn Faluja into a parking lot and that mistreatment of prisoners isn’t a matter of great concern. Rush Limbaugh recently brushed aside allegations of cruel prison treatment at Guantanamo dismissing one account of a bound prisoner left lying naked in his own excrement saying ‘isn’t that what those people do anyway?’ How jaded must our perceptions have become to speak of defending freedom, liberty and human decency yet to behave in ways so divergent from the true meaning of those words.
But administration word mechanics and their supporters have been successful in flooding the airwaves with disinformation and other forms of rhetoric. For example Bill OReilly now refers to Christ as Jesus the Philosopher echoing the president’s lame response when asked who his favorite philosopher was. And some on the religious right have tried an end run around science education by promoting a disclaimer in schools to the effect that evolution is only a “theory”. They suggest the “theory” of intelligent design (a thinly disguised bow to creationism) be taught as well. People certainly have a right to their beliefs, but science is not based upon religious principles; that’s why it’s called science.
Most amazing though are some of the statements made by our leaders themselves. How could National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice suggest that a daily intelligence brief stating “Osama bin Laden determined to strike in the US” was an historical document? And more recently how could she be so disengaged from the human condition as to comment that the Tsunami disaster presented “an opportunity” for the US to show the world how much we care. This administration’s use of language often provides an insight into the workings of their hearts and minds. Thus President Bush sounds almost jubilant describing how his privatizing scheme for Social Security would benefit African Americans because they die at an earlier age than Whites and would therefore be enormously advantaged by owning some of their retirement benefits.
Our language has become so distorted, when the President speaks of an ownership society, most people probably don’t realize that the country and our government are already part of an ownership society, but it’s a corporate ownership. If people really thought about it, the concept probably wouldn’t sound all that appealing. Some of us can hardly believe our ears; others are just confused into accepting meaningless rhetoric.
Oh, just in passing, no pun intended, a pop quiz for Rush Limbaugh who remarked a couple of years ago that the press gave a pass (again no pun intended) to Donovan McNabb and weren’t as critical of him as they should have been because he’s black. Quiz question: what African American quarterback will be leading his NFC conference winners to the Super Bowl this year?

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