A Note About the Power of Words

This point hardly needs belaboring– what you call something matters, often very much.   For example, the phrase “sexual harassment” did not even exist until fairly recently when female lawyers coined it and began advocating for laws against it.  Before that time, unless a woman had been raped, or subjected to other forcible sexual contact, in front of witnesses, she had little to no legal recourse for something like a “male chauvinist” boss caressing her ass over her skirt, complimenting her breasts while licking his lips, pressing against her, perhaps even sliding his grubby hand down her shirt and kissing her.  Threatening to fire her, or actually firing her, if she objected to him continuing to do all these things, and other things too, wink, wink — no harm, eh, no word for the harm, no foul!  LOL!

There was not even a word for these still common little practices, they were, until some time in the late 1970s, 80s or 90s, something the law considered de minimis, and, as we all know, de minimis non curat lex.   The law don’t make laws against things we don’t even have a word for, sob sisters.  Ah, for them good old days when America was still great.

We can all rattle off phrases that were created at great expense to shape political discourse — if we can apply that term, which implies a reasoned back and forth conversation, to American politics.   Death Tax, Death Panels, Right to Life, Tax and Spend, Enhanced Interrogation, Right to Work, States’ Rights, Special Rendition, AUMF, Signature Strike, Collateral Damage, Friendly Fire, Climate Change Skeptic, Intelligent Design, Birtherism, blah blah blah.   

Here’s one that just got to me, hearing a discussion about so-called evangelical Christians who support an Alabama bigot running for the Senate in a special election.  This candidate claims it was God’s vengeance on American sodomites and blasphemers what caused the attacks of 9/11/01, though he hates Muslims too, and believes his fervor for the teachings of Jesus trumps any direct order of the U.S. Supreme Court, even in executing his duties as an Alabama Supreme Court justice.   He was twice removed as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, by his fellow Alabama state judges, for unrepentant contempt of court orders. [1] Like the affable idiot Dubya, he takes his orders from a higher father.  Law and Order, yo, as he waves his wife’s little gun at a campaign rally and the audience erupts in applause.  

Anyway, the word that got to me, as much as the fucking f-word, or the n-word itself (let’s all agree to ban the hateful word, shall we, instead of honestly dealing with its long, ugly history and ongoing American legacy) was Democrat.  We now have Republican values and Democrat values, the Republicans are no longer ceding the adjective “democratic” to the party that spawned the Klan while they, the Party of Lincoln, were fighting to abolish the Peculiar Institution. 

Note that subtle, but strong, implication of saying “Democrat” values instead of “Democratic”.  No more moral high ground for you, motherfuckers.  Note that we hardly even notice it at this point, the usage has become ubiquitous.  It was not in wide use until fairly recently.  There was always the Republican candidate and the Democratic candidate, the latter could also be called the Democrat, as opposed to the Republican.  But the D-word’s use has expanded, it seems to me.  It is used in its noun form, weaponized as an adjective, in a pejorative sense, often not undeservedly so, mind you.  It is generally spoken with a southern inflection, think of George Dubya Bush saying it, leaning derisively on that last syllable, Demo-CRAT.   It can be tastefully followed by a well-aimed lunger into the old brass spittoon, for emphasis.   

Words matter, sure, but if you say ’em right, you can make a polite word  just as potent as a darned fighting word, an ‘invitation to exchange fisticuffs’ as the fancy pants on the Supreme Court styled it.  Say the “n-word” with the right emphasis, boy, and it’s as good as using the old one, “nigger”, a word that will get you fired now faster than you can say Jack Robinson.  That was another of them politically correct, liberal Democrat triumphs, taking the castrating shears to our cherished vernacular.  How you like your damned n-word now, n-word?

Alabama Republicans can only thank the good Lord that nobody has a tape recording or video of Roy Moore saying the “n-word” for real.  Y’all would still have to double down and vote for him, but it would be a much harder pull than just against a handful of fifty-something year-old women claiming Moore felt them up when they were teenagers.   He said he asked their mamas every time, before he gave ’em a ride in his car and started sweet talkin’ ’em.   Plus, how come, if there was any truth to these anti-Christian lies at all, they didn’t start defaming his Honor’s good name with this forty years ago?

He’s the Law and Order candidate, unlike that one the Democrat party is running, Doug Jones.  All Jones ever did is prosecute some old men who, when they were young, blew up some little colored girls in a church.  If Alabama can keep enough coloreds from voting tomorrow, Moore has a fair shot at becoming Alabama’s next U.S. Senator.  The Supreme Court itself said we now live in a post-racial society where coloreds are done being the “special favorites of the law.” [2]  No need to enforce the Voting Rights Act down there, Lord no, as the Roberts Court so ruled.  Do not insult our honor, sir! 

States rights, except when it comes to carrying my concealed handgun in Times Square and all over the liberal states that hate the Second Amendment, to make sure it’s ready to fire at bad guys with guns.  And, of course, when it comes to federal action against the most dangerous and evil drug the world has ever known– marijuana.  Oh, yeah, and Monsanto selling its toxic agricultural products wherever it wants and fuck the wishes of local fucking hippies.

Don’t forget to vote tomorrow, Alabama.  You may be number 44 (out of 50) in educational attainment in the U.S. for 2017, but there are still six states with worse outcomes for students (though five out of the six voted for Trump too).   Surprise us, Alabama.


[1] how he crawled back to his Chief Justice post after the first time, I have to check out some time, though I suspect the good, white, Republican Christians of Alabama re-elected him.

[2] This phrase is from a famous 1883 Supreme Court ruling in the mischievously named Civil Rights Cases that decided the former slaves no longer needed federal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment and the legislation passed to enforce it.  The 8-1 decision, written by long-winded racist douchebag Justice Joseph P.  Bradley, contains this immortal paragraph which was, for the better part of a century, the law of this great nation, back when we were still great:

When a man has emerged from slavery, and by the aid of beneficent legislation has shaken off the inseparable concomitants of that state, there must be some stage in the progress of his elevation when he takes the rank of a mere citizen, and ceases to be the special favorite of the laws, and when his rights as a citizen, or a man, are to be protected in the ordinary modes by which other men’s rights are protected. There were thousands of free colored people in this country before the abolition of slavery, enjoying all the essential rights of life, liberty, and property the same as white citizens; yet no one, at that time, thought that it was any invasion of their personal status as freemen because they were not admitted to all the privileges enjoyed by white citizens, or because they were subjected to discriminations in the enjoyment of accommodations in inns, public conveyances, and places of amusement. Mere discriminations on account of race or color were not regarded as badges of slavery….

read a more detailed account of this immortal piece of jurisprudence, including Justice John Harlan’s forward-looking dissent  here

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