Saturday, August 13, 2011

Terroristic rhetoric

During the heat of political debate, it is important not to take some of the rhetoric we hear too seriously. This does not just apply to our politicians, but to media members and other groups involved in the democratic process.

After all, when the sparks are flying, we have all heard examples where people let the words they are speaking get ahead of their brains. This happens on all levels, including here on the local level.

However, we heard some of the dumbest rhetoric I can recall in the aftermath of the debt crisis that occurred earlier this month. Some compared Republican tactics used during this controversy to terrorism.

That's right: terrorism. As we stand on the threshold of the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks that killed almost 3,000 people some actually compared political maneuvering to a horrible event like that.

I would have let this slide if it had been an isolated incident, but pundits on networks like MSNBC and other venues used the analogy many times. Also, it is alleged that Vice President Joe Biden used the term when meeting with Democratic members of Congress.

As a citizen who is fed up with the tactics of both the Democrats and Republicans, the abuse of the term 'terrorism' represents a new low. What is next? Comparisons to the holocaust? To Charles Manson? If mass murder is an appropriate comparison to political controversy, then the word 'terrorism' has been greatly cheapened.

It was not too long ago that President Barack Obama and other leaders called on everybody to cool the inflammatory talk. In the aftermath of the attempted assassination of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, some alleged that the shooter could have been spurred on by the hostile rhetoric used by some elements of talk radio.

Of course, this was baloney. Her shooter allegedly suffers from mental problems, and the attack had nothing to do with talk radio. Still, the way words are used was a very hot topic for a few days.

The bottom line is I am kidding myself if I believe our leaders will stop using inflammatory words when it suits their agenda. The manipulation of words is a primary weapon when competing for the attention of the public.

We all manipulate words without even realizing it. When I was a boy, I can remember not wanting to eat spaghetti because I hated it. I did not really 'hate' spaghetti. It just was not a food I liked very much.

'Love' and 'hate' remain the most misused words in our language. If we genuinely loved everything we say we do, then our hearts would be overflowing so much that it would be impossible to say anything bad about anybody.

However, there is a fine line between what is acceptable and what is not. The use of the word 'terrorism' in the recent political debate crossed that line. I know the line can be a subjective one. When the stakes are high, it becomes a lot easier to push the envelope when it comes to the words we use.

As a culture, we have to do a better job at determining when enough is enough. This applies to how words are used, but also to lots of other areas of life.

Frankly, we do not do a good job at defining boundaries in our society. Just about anything goes these days. Not only does this apply to words, but also to what serves as entertainment and other aspects of life.

Because of this lack of discipline, it should not surprise us that we hear the types of words we do. It is just another example of things spinning out of control.

1 comment:

Ten Irish said...

"As a culture, we have to do a better job at determining when enough is enough. This applies to how words are used, but also to lots of other areas of life."

But let's make that up to the individual. I don't want the usual suspects on the fringe left making those decisions for me or anyone else.