Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN


November 19, 2013

We the People: Loose lips sink ships

CROSSVILLE — Recently, I read a “Stumptalk” column in which a very liberal position was promoted. The writer was simply speaking from the heart without consulting the required list of allowed positions. He also seemed to forget to lace his letter with the usual “magic words” (Benghazi… oooo!, Obamacare… aaaah!) and the obligatory, juvenile name-calling. I was about to pick up the phone to compliment the author on his position, but in the final sentence or two he reverted to blaming “liberal leftists” for the woes of the world.

It made me think. Not so much about the occasional complicity of “leftist liberals” in supporting flawed policies, but rather about how mentally debilitating it is to listen to slogans day in and day out.

When a society thinks in slogans, it is easily deceived. Slogans are like chants that ripple over our tongues, sounds that have lost almost all descriptive meaning. (Rah-rah-rah! Sis-boom-bah!) If we want to “reason together” toward a common good, then we must pay careful attention to the descriptive meaning and stop using emotional slogans and “magic words.”

Some years ago, I wrote a piece on the meaning of the English word, “liberal.” I combed the most respected source available (the OED) to find ways “liberal” is traditionally used (generous, free, etc.). In a political context, there was only one definition.

A liberal political position, according to the OED, is one that is favors reforms “…tending in the direction of freedom and democracy.”

The terms “liberal” and “conservative” were first used to describe a political stance only in the 19th century. During that time, the Liberals sat on the left of the Parliament assembly and the Conservatives on the right. And, so, liberals are leftists and conservatives are right-wing. That’s where they sat. “Left” and “right” means nothing more in a political context than “liberal” and “conservative.”

When the Stumptalk columnist used the term “leftist liberals,” it demonstrated either an unfortunate inability to recognize redundancy or, more likely, the use of an emotional slogan in order to solidify identification with a particular “political team.” Sis-boom-bah!

The OED tries to be as thoroughly accurate and succinct as possible. Its definitions may seem dry and remote. A famous Parliamentary leader, however, expressed political positions in a much more understandable way. William Gladstone said, “Liberalism is trust of the people tempered by prudence. Conservatism is distrust of the people tempered by fear.”

Am I a liberal? You bet! I love freedom and democracy. I believe in general human rights, not serfdom in deference to an hereditary, propertied elite. Americans, when asked their opinion on specific policies, broadly support liberal programs. I think some in the “Tea Party” probably feel the same way. In fact, I’ll bet some are actually to the left of me on certain, if not many, issues.

So, let’s discuss political programs in real, descriptive language instead of hot-button phrases and slogans produced by “talking heads.” Old habits die hard, but for our vast, multicultural country to survive as a society, those habits need to die. If we, the people, cannot reason together, our country will be ripped apart by those who salivate at the prospect of picking our bones for what scraps remain.

Text Only
  • Tidbits: Taking a low-tech break

    Feeling increasingly strangled by my electronic leash, with phone, text messages, email, social media and a variety of other forms of communication always at my side, I took the weekend off.

    July 28, 2014

  • Stumptalk: Governing before and after mass corruption

    Laws in America were originally written simply. Every citizen could read them quickly and understand their meaning. The founders wrote the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the Northwest Ordinance and the Constitution of the United States, none of which was longer than 4,500 words.

    July 28, 2014

  • We the People: The last dance

    Charlie Hayden’s last recording session with his early partner, Keith Jarrett, was in 2007.  The songs they played were mostly melancholy.  The second album coming from that session includes Weil’s “My Ship” and Porter’s “Every Time We Say Goodbye.” The dark ballad “Goodbye,” by Gordon Jenkins, was the final track.

    July 22, 2014

  • Lion and the Lamb: Living in a pressure cooker

    The Gaza Strip, a small Palestinian territory about the size of Washington, D.C., has been in the news almost every day.  Its key location at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea has attracted a number of occupying powers over the years, and it has  been at the center of much Middle East history.

    July 22, 2014

  • Tidbits: The excitement of election day

    On March 12, 1996, there were 427,183 votes cast in the presidential primary election. Among those votes was mine, the first vote I cast in an election, just two days after my 18th birthday.

    July 21, 2014

  • Raising the minimum wage

    My first job from which FICA was withheld was a minimum wage job, seventy-five cents an hour. And yes, even then no one could live on that little money. However, I was a high schooler living at home where my father provided room and board. The job gave me pocket money to buy gasoline, to take my girlfriend out for movies and burgers, and to buy tickets for baseball games.

    July 21, 2014

  • Lion and the Lamb: Children on the move

    The news this past week has focused on the humanitarian crisis developing on our southern border. Thousands of unaccompanied children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras seeking to escape from the violence, human trafficking and extreme poverty in their countries have been entering the United States.

    July 15, 2014

  • We the People: Memo to gun rights groups

    The recent incident in California helps us understand why we cannot rely on mental health services alone to solve the problem of gun violence.

    July 15, 2014

  • Tidbits: Make the best of your road trip

    I didn’t care for road trips when I was young. It was so confining to have to sit in the back seat, staring out the window for hour after hour, hayfield after hayfield. And when you’re a kid, time doesn’t pass like it does when you get a little older. Just the trip from Jamestown, TN, to Crossville, roughly 30 miles, felt like an eternity!

    July 14, 2014

  • Stumptalk: Biased climate agenda will cost trillions

    For anyone who has been educated in the history of science and scientific method, this whole issue of “Global Warming” or “Climate Change” is an embarrassing and painful exercise.

    July 14, 2014

Marketplace Marquee
Must Read
Section Teases
Seasonal Content
AP Video
Looming Demand Could Undercut Flight Safety Raw: 2 Shells Hit Fuel Tank at Gaza Power Plant Raw: Massive Explosions From Airstrikes in Gaza Giant Ketchup Bottle Water Tower Up for Sale Easier Nuclear Construction Promises Fall Short Kerry: Humanitarian Cease-fire Efforts Continue Raw: Corruption Trial Begins for Former Va Gov. The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming UN Security Council Calls for Gaza Cease-fire Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating 13 Struck by Lightning on Calif. Beach Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Israel, Hamas Trade Fire Despite Truce in Gaza Italy's Nibali Set to Win First Tour De France Raw: Shipwrecked Concordia Completes Last Voyage Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge From Nest Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix 12-hour Cease-fire in Gaza Fighting Begins Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Raw: Israel, Palestine Supporters Rally in US
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Weather Radar
2014 Readers' Choice
Graduation 2014