Saturday, August 18, 2018
As a Democracy Falters, Language is Often the First Freedom to Go
When I was young, the "n" word was in pretty common usage. I never heard the mothers say it much but the Dad's did - the factory dads and the trucker dads and the mining dads and yes, even the doctor and lawyer dads - in other words, the Archie Bunker dads. I also heard people called Kikes, Wops, Spics, Dagoes, Hunkies and Polacks. There never seemed to be much malice associated with those labels and, honestly, the members of those groups themselves were often the worst offenders.
But, eventually, we began to realize that those terms were demeaning and for the most part, they faded away with the younger generations (which was me back then). I don't think I ever used the "n" word in my life unless I was quoting someone and being critical of their lack of sensitivity.
Now there are questions about whether or not there is a tape floating around of the president of the United States using the "n" word but really, what does it matter if there is a tape? Do any of us doubt the he has used the pejorative label many times in his life?
For God's sake, his entire campaign and presidency have been built on a foundation of racism. Muslim bans. Separating little children from their families at the border despite our laws saying they have a right to an asylum hearing. Putting Latino babies in cages. Allowing his federales to turn cold hoses on Native Americans for protesting a pipeline that threatens their water in the harshness of a freezing winter. Calling African nations "shithole" countries. Rescinding the sanctuary given to 59,000 Haitians (all of whom, he claims, have AIDS). Giving a pardon to a bigoted sheriff who ignored the legal system. Deporting retroactively, Hispanic veterans. Mexicans are rapists and murderers (that was practically the first campaign allegation he made.
Trump's NFL statements are all about racism. His favorite put-down of blacks is that they are dumb. Maxine Waters is a low-i.q. wacko. Don Lemon is the dumbest man on t.v. "He even makes LeBron James look smart and that's hard to do" ha!ha! Omarosa is a crazed dog. Other women are fat pigs. Lying whores. Nasty women. And of course, sexism is the other face of racism.
I believe Trump is taking America down into the sewer and degrading our language is one way to do it. Make it, and us, ugly and hateful to one another. Calling our free press the enemy of the people and fake news. Vilifying our law enforcement officials and our criminal justice system and our intelligence agencies. "Deep State, witch hunt, hoax." Pressing compliments and admiration on despots like Putin, Kim Jung Un and Duterte while criticizing decades long allies like Canada and Britain and Germany, the NATO Alliance, the G7.
Common understanding of our language defines who and what we are. Now we speak in two languages. Both are English but one is the language of democracy while the other is the language of demonization. America simply can't prosper when we are two enemy camps firing lethal word missiles at one another..