Sunday, October 11, 2015

Dear liberals and conservatives: Please stop trying to make 'fetch' happen

One of the unique things about the American culture of language is that we seem to create more new words each year that become part of the colloquial lexicon. For better or worse, these words stick around. People like to coin new words or phrases. YOLO. Crunk. On fleek. If you repeat these long enough, the great masses of people latch on to them. People convince society that these phrases are cool, but, when you say things like "off the hook," you actually sound like a moron.

Politically, both the left and the right are attempting to use a similar strategy in persuading the public to accept ideas that don't have any basis in truth, or are not so cleverly disguised euphemisms which attempt to downplay a far more serious situation.

Any discussion of gun legislation in the United States stirs this type of strategy. The disturbing amount of gun violence in this country has spurred questions about what we, as a society, are doing to prevent these tragedies. Immediately, many citizens question what, if any, legislation is needed to help prevent this. While the issue of gun violence is a multi-faceted issue, considering a change to gun laws is one of many actions that would potentially improve the situation.

Conservative groups and the Republican Party respond to the suggestion of a change in gun legislation with platitudes such as "Guns don't kill people. People kill people." Maybe you've heard this one: "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun." Also, conservatives immediately raise the issue that bad guys are going to find a way to procure a gun, even if it isn't legal.

We should consider the fact that while legislation hasn't prevented some shootings in the nation, we have no clue how many shootings have actually been prevented by the current legislation. Mandatory waiting periods might have prevented an irrationally angry person from making a terrible mistake. Background checks create an obstacle that makes obtaining a gun more difficult.

Also, the legislation about illegally possessing firearms doesn't stop every incident, but how many terrible criminals have been busted for an illegal firearms possession that they would have walked for if not for that legislation. How many murders would they have committed with their illegal firearms?

So yes, legislation does provide some assistance in tackling a serious problem in the United States. Conservative groups like the National Rifle Association (NRA) would rather classify any changes to existing gun laws as "an attack on freedom" rather than a means of combating a very serious problem.

The strategy of 'rebranding' is not unique to conservative elements of the political world. Liberal elements of American political culture have used the same modus operandi with respect to abortion.

Of course, abortion has been a divisive issue for the last century, particularly since the decision from the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade. This summer, the issue became white hot when videos were posted online of employees of Planned Parenthood discussing (rather coldly) aborted fetuses. The reaction from Americans was to demand that Planned Parenthood stop receiving funding from the federal government because they perform abortions.

The defense from Planned Parenthood supporters was fairly predictable. They proclaimed that abortions only amounted to 3% of the procedures and services provided to women annually. This might be the most absurd part of their position I could imagine. Even if that statistic is accurate, any taxpayer dollars that went to an institution performing abortions would be too many.

Planned Parenthood defenders also attempted to recast the criticism levied against them as an "attack on freedom" or an "attack against women's reproductive rights." The ridiculousness of these expressions is mind boggling. No one objects to Planned Parenthood providing a service such as a mammogram to women. However, from the conservative position, an abortion involves the loss of human life. Why would liberals expect their political opposites to react any differently? Moreover, liberals have seriously downplayed the damage and impact of an abortion on a woman. Even if you believe an abortion is the choice of a woman, it would be a gross understatement to characterize an abortion as a "procedure."

Both major ideologies have attempted to use their tactics in an effort to pain the Supreme Court as antithetical to the ideals of our democracy. Of course, they only blast the Court when it rules in a manner that they do not like. The commonality between the two was their choice to deride the Supreme Court as an arcane institution that should be significantly altered to be more reflective of the will of the people.

Liberals found the Court detestable when it overturned provisions of the Voting Rights Act or allowed for groups and corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money in political activities.  Conservatives lamented the decisions made by the Court with respect to the Affordable Care Act and same-sex marriage.

Regardless of your personal opinions, the problem beyond these issues is the ridiculous level of 'spin' put on these important matters in our society. We cover the important matters of life by heaping these kinds words upon them to make them more palatable.

Euphemisms exist everywhere in our society. Buy a pre-owned car, not a used one. Businesses don't cut jobs, they downsize or restructure. The national government spends money at an alarming deficit, but it's described as stimulating the economy. Executions are called capital punishment. That meat at the supermarket isn't about to expire, it's a manager's special. Your child isn't lazy, he or she isn't living up to their potential. It's not genocide, it's ethnic cleansing.

The political spin has become so disgusting and sickening, Americans are actually considering Donald Trump a viable presidential candidate because he "says what he thinks." How much crap is peddled to the public that we actually become excited that a politician's best quality is that they say what they think?

The refusal to be candid has translated to a laissez-faire attitude amongst the people about some of the world's most important issues. Whether it's a conscious effort or these phrases are created haphazardly, people keep repeating them to the point where society feels it's acceptable. How else did fo' shizzle become part of the language?

But in the end, it's ridiculous to accept an explanation that whitewashes reality. When we allow ourselves to be lulled to sleep, we do so at our own peril. How many thousands of lives are cut short in an instant by guns and then forgotten just as quickly before we are disturbed? How many millions of abortions will end lives while we provide lip service to caring about the 'sanctity of life?'

Abandon the rehearsed statements and party lines. Engage in honest discussion. Allow your perspective to be challenged. Demand better from your leaders, and sift through the shenanigans they attempt to plant inside your head, because repeating thinly veiled stupidity serves no purpose other than revealing your own stubborn foolishness.

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