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
  • LION AND THE LAMB: Four ways to demonstrate opposition

    Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan mention in their book, “The Last Week,” that Roman-occupied Palestine during the first century was under the control of Pontius Pilate who lived in the coastal city of Caesarea. Each year at the beginning of the Passover observance when Jews celebrated their liberation from Egypt, Pilate feared that they might be getting ideas about revolting from Rome, so he would come with additional soldiers on horses to beef up the Roman garrison in Jerusalem. 

    April 15, 2014

  • WE THE PEOPLE: Is it (new) party time?

    The Democratic and Republican parties are toast, according to Joe Trippi. The Republican Party is coming apart at its Tea Party seam. Democratic candidates struggle to celebrate President Obama’s health care successes, while responding to criticism of his failed promises, e.g., government transparency.

    April 15, 2014

  • TIDBITS: I found it at the library

    I have such fond memories of going to my local library as a child, searching through shelf after shelf and finding a book that would make me a Little Princess in World War II England, or bring me along as Nancy Drew solved the Secret in the Old Attic.

    April 14, 2014

  • STUMPTALK: The reason words have meaning

    If words did not have accepted meanings we would not be able to communicate effectively and civilized society would not exist.

    April 14, 2014

  • Lion and the Lamb: Do we really believe in democracy?

    The recent Supreme Court decision, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, is in a long line of debates about power in a democracy. Should power be in the hands of all the citizens or should it be in hands of those who have greater wealth and social position?

    April 8, 2014

  • We the People: Public education or business opportunity?

    A month ago, we followed the money trail left by a ‘think tank’ to the major sources funding an attack on our traditional, locally controlled public schools. We saw that a handful of billionaires provide major support to many organizations lobbying for change.

    April 8, 2014

  • Stumptalk: Just another government lie?

    There is a vault located in Fort Knox, Kentucky. It was built in 1936 and encased in 16 cubic feet of granite and 4200 feet of cement. The door is made of 20-inch thick material that is immune to drills, torches and explosives.

    April 7, 2014

  • GARY'S WORLD: The chance to speak your mind

    Are you tired of hearing people complain about the way things are run in Cumberland County? Or, do you like the way the county government is run and operated in our beautiful county?
    Are you happy with the way things are, or would you like some change?

    April 3, 2014

  • LION AND THE LAMB: Digging beneath the headlines

    Our media have been focusing on two important events that have taken place overseas during the last several weeks.

    April 1, 2014

  • WE THE PEOPLE: SNAP, health and work

    A recent letter from Representative Diane Black to me states that she voted for the farm bill (with $8 million in Food Stamp (SNAP) benefit cuts) because she, like me, is a supporter of food stamp benefits for Tennessee families who qualify. That’s a lot of families, as most recipients are families with children and the elderly. Now, recall that there was already a major cut to the food stamp program back in the fall. But for some Republicans, that was not enough.

    April 1, 2014

Marketplace Marquee
Must Read
Section Teases
Seasonal Content
AP Video
Raw: More Than 100,000 Gather for Easter Sunday Raw: Greeks Celebrate Easter With "Rocket War" Police Question Captain, Crew on Ferry Disaster Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite Ceremony Marks 19th Anniversary of OKC Bombing Raw: Four French Journalists Freed From Syria Raw: Massive 7.2 Earthquake Rocks Mexico Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Superheroes Descend on Capitol Mall Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

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