Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Bad Words

I’m not really a word Nazi or anything, but I propose that we junk the following terms, permanently. Furthermore, I recommend that anyone caught using them should be pelted with dung and rotten vegetables. Here they are: ground zero, line in the sand, in harm’s way, zero tolerance, and thank you for your service. Maybe we could include two more that are particularly relevant right now, using the term job creators to describe corporations that offshore jobs, and whining that a very slight increase in taxes among the wealthy is a way of punishing achievement. In light of today’s economic reality, these last two are a sick joke.

While we’re at it, let’s jettison these as well: first responders, health care professional, peace officer, and person of interest.

I also wish we’d drop the habit of calling our soldiers warriors. This is both sinister and silly, and it doesn’t jibe with the values of a supposedly free and independent people. Why should a bunch of soft, credit card wielding civilians, and, let’s face it, that’s what we are, adopt the language of a military academy or boot camp? It’s about as ridiculous as Mitt Romney claiming to know what it’s like to be unemployed. On a darker note, it’s one more way that we’re being militarized in order to accept permanent war as the normal state of things.

Here’s another one: tell our military personnel to stop declaring ipso facto that all our enemies in a war are “bad guys.” How arrogant and presumptuous is that? Is an Afghan farmer who’s defending himself from foreign invaders a “bad guy”? It’s unfortunate but, I suppose, somewhat understandable in a war zone. What’s not forgivable is when police officers refer to suspects the very same way. Last I checked people are innocent until proven guilty. The cops don’t know they’re bad guys until they’ve been convicted of a crime, right? Nevertheless, it has become routine for police to speak this way. After all, it’s easier to justify tasing a bad guy than a mere suspect, who, as the word itself suggests, may be innocent.

Whether we realize it or not, this kind of language has the effect of making us more servile to authority. It pushes us into a kind of childish hero worship. It grants our supposed protectors and superiors, i.e., the warriors, peace officers, and first responders, an elevated and heroic status that places them beyond criticism, and it simultaneously disempowers us. To say anything critical about them is a form of soft-core blasphemy. It produces passiveness and obedience, the results of which are all around us to see. Unprovoked invasions and Wall Street bailouts wouldn’t be possible without it.

It’s ironic, isn’t it, that this dime store deification of our authority figures is happening when our authority figures are proving themselves totally unworthy of any such thing? Is this accidental, do you suppose?

And that’s my unsolicited rant for the day.

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