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My Turn, Bruce LaRue: Assess true meanings of words

By Bruce LaRue

The election has come and passed.

It did not turn out as I had hoped and, like many, I am most displeased. As was the case four years ago, I lamented that out of over 300 million Americans, these two are the best we can do? I still find the Democrats profoundly reprehensible for what they have done to President Biden. He will become a pathetic figure before being ushered out, and hopefully the party will pay dearly beginning with the midterm elections.

As upset as I was, I did not go out and set buildings on fire, breaking into private businesses and removing durable goods without paying for them, justifying my actions with words like, “It’s OK, they have insurance.”

It never occurred to me to take a long rifle that I should not have possessed in the first place, travel to another city uninvited and unwelcome, then place myself in a situation in which I felt mortally threatened, causing me to react by fatally shooting someone else “in self-defense.”

I was not part of the mob that stormed the Capitol, declaring the attack “patriotic.” These rioters abdicated any rightful claim to patriotism when they began to replace the American flag, with all that it stands for, with a Trump flag. I remain dissatisfied with the unreconciled discrepancies of the election; not the process, but the execution. Democrats used the angst of the pandemic to justify circumventing state legislatures to alter voting laws on the fly. Still, whatever reservations I had were not enough to stultify me to the point of thinking it might be a good idea to breach barricades and break into the Capitol, inflict death and destruction, post images of myself on social media, then act surprised when authorities collected me upon my return to the hotel. Are you guys sure you’re intellectually superior to other rioters and looters?

Perhaps the stress and fatigue of the pandemic clouded people’s thinking. Hey, I know, let’s burn and loot and set up an autonomous zone. We’ll demand that the system we despise recognize our independence while supplying us with food, water, electricity and Wi-Fi, much like living in our parents’ basements.

“Unrest” was the word frequently used to describe the behavior of thugs during the “mostly peaceful” demonstrations over the summer. “Insurrection” was used to describe the actions of the thugs that battered law enforcement officers then illegally and unpatriotically forced their way into the seat of democracy. “Thugs” is the word I choose because, one, I am not a member of the press constrained by the hobbles of political correctness and, two, I think the word more accurately describes the behaviors of these groups than “protesters” or “insurrectionists.” They do not deserve a label that depicts them as anything less than unrefined and, three, I am not a celebrity, public figure or CEO and, therefore, shall not quake and quiver at the thought of being canceled. If I haven’t stepped on your toes yet, please be patient; I’m working my way around.

Writers, journalists included, are taught which words work best to get a desired point or idea transferred from one mind to the minds of others. When the goal is to influence rather than report, connotation is much more effective and useful than denotation. “Protest” carries a fairly benign connotation. “Insurrection” is meant to evoke a sense of treason or sedition.

One of the first orders of business for the Biden administration was to roll out the word “equity.” My dictionary’s first definition is (1a) Justice according to natural law or right: Impartiality. Sounds reasonable, even noble, right? But is that what they really meant? If we listen critically to their carefully crafted rhetoric, their wish list seems to more closely match definition 2C: A body of legal doctrines and rules developed to enlarge, supplement, or override a narrow, rigid system of law. Liberals may be misguided, but they are not stupid. No one can be against equity, right?

Gina McCarthy, climate adviser to President Biden, stated that climate change — a priority for the administration — is also a racial justice issue. “Climate justice is about equal rights,” she said, presumably with a straight face. Who among us is against justice and equal rights? The problem is, those terms are often misappropriated, intended to inoculate whatever issue to which they are attached against the threat of serious scrutiny or debate. When they sense that their king is in danger, they claim “social injustice,” then kick the game board over and declare a stalemate. I am 64 years old, born and raised in the South; I know what social injustice looks like. Climate change ain’t it.

In the aftermath of the presidential election, there was an uproar over voting irregularities. Strategic word usage and placement came into play quite frequently. First, we were assured by the mainstream media that there was no evidence of “widespread” voter fraud. Very well, but the term seems a bit subjective in this context. How widespread must the fraud be to trigger an investigation and, more important, who decides?

Just as I was about to admit that my side may have overplayed the voter fraud angle, the anchors and reporters at NPR stoked the dying embers of suspicion with their obsessive use of modifiers like “false” and “baseless” before the phrase “claims of voter fraud,” so much so that it felt like folks that may be privy to inculpatory evidence not available to the rest of us “doth protest too much.” They went from reporting facts to steering public opinion.

If objective journalism at the national level is not dead, there certainly is a rale in the timbre of the delivery of their strategically chosen words. As consumers of news and opinion, we should assay those words for their true meanings. 

Bruce LaRue lives in Mt. Ulla.

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