Thursday, July 13, 2006

It's the Language, Stupid

Forgive the play on Mr. Clinton's 1992 slogan, but the time has come for everyone to slow down and think about the language which is being used in the current debates engaging our "divided" country.

David Brooks has an interesting column in today's NYTimes (unfortunately, it's a "Times Select" column, which means it'll cost you on line). He writes about the slow development of democracy in Europe after the 1848 "revolutions." He thinks a similar growth of democratic principals is due in the various trouble spots across the world. Money quote:

"We’re out of the period of mass rallies and toppling regimes and orange revolutions. We’re coming into a period of, at best, a gradualist conservative reform. It’s time to come up with a strategy for helping today’s unimaginative autocrats to become new and improved Bismarcks. "

A cursory review of history suggests Mr. Brooks is onto something, but he is unlikely to have much effect. The neo-cons will dismiss him as soft and irrelevant; the liberals will ignore him because he sits in the NY Times' "conservative" seat, and the liberals are really Mr. Brooks' intended audience--because he truly is, for the most part, an Eisenhower Republican.

The problem is that conservative has taken on so much negative baggage recently, that the word gets almost as much knee-jerk response as "right wing-nut" or "tax and spend liberal."

Somehow we need to establish some "givens." For instance, most "conservatives" are not Neanderthals, nor are "liberals" tax and spend fiscal fools.

Everyone, it could be argued, is a conservative in that no one wants chaos; no one wants change which has not been carefully considered and debated.

Everyone, it could be argued, is a supporter of taxes. Responsible people know that government has a place in society. Everyone knows the government must be funded by citizens. No one wants government funds to be spent foolishly. Government programs and the taxes which fund them must be debated openly, and social benefits clearly established.

Who could possibly argue with these points?

There really is little difference between conservative and liberal.

We need major pundits, not bloviators, to establish guide lines about the meaning of conservative and liberal in order to be able to establish a point without having to spend "ink" in clarification of terms.

Once we rid ourselves of the linguistic baggage and bombast in which we find ourselves mired, we will be better able to debate and address the problems of the day.

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