aNewDomain — The renewed push to eliminate the Confederate battle flag from the South Carolina state capitol and as part of the design of state flags in other Southern states has sparked the kind of discussion that showcases one of the big things that is wrong with American politics. It doesn’t get talked about very much, but the truth is: Politicians don’t speak correctly.
That is, they don’t talk right.
I don’t know why. Is it that rhetoric and debate is an afterschool activity rather than part of standard school curriculums? Is the long tradition of anti-intellectualism in American culture to blame?
Whatever the reason, journalists are too deeply embedded in the corporate political class to see that the soundbites they’re transcribing are, to put it politely, stupid. And not just in the grammatical sense. Consider:
Flags Don’t Divide
Whatever the cause, American politicians seem particularly inept at framing issues and concerns in a way that clarifies problems and their potential solutions.
Take, for example, the words of Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe. He says he wants to take the Confederate standard off his state’s license plates. The flag “divides many of our people,” McAuliffe said. “Even its display on state-issued license tags is, in my view, unnecessarily divisive and hurtful to too many of our people.”
He is wrong, of course, when he says that the flag divides people.
What is true is that Virginia, like other states, is divided between people who are offended by the flag, and those who think it’s just fine.
Given the history the flag symbolizes, most relevantly the fact that Southern states resurrected the Confederate battle flag as a rebuke to the civil rights movement during the late 1950s and early 1960s, people who are still fans of the Confederate flag are inconsiderate jerks at bare minimum. As for the rest, let’s just call them the racist scum they are.
So it would be far more accurate to say that the state is divided between nice people who would never put Confederate imagery on their cars, and mean people who would.
What McAuliffe should have said is: “People who display Confederate images on their license plates are racist assholes, and the state of Virginia shouldn’t endorse their racist asshole views.”
Bodies. Not Body.
And then there are the politicians who, even while espousing the right side of an issue, give those on the other side a benefit of the doubt that they don’t deserve. Here’s South Carolina State Senator Tom Davis:
“There are some very good and decent people up there in that General Assembly, without a racist bone in their body, who revere that flag.”
This is the sort of statement that, in countries like England and France where words are carefully scrutinized, would result in public shaming. Words that form idiotic phrases and sentences prompt ridicule there that might keep you from ever leaving your house again.
Seriously, does anyone really believe that someone who “reveres” the Confederate flag doesn’t have “a racist bone in their body?”
And it’s “bodies.” Not body.
Another Word for Courage, Please.
Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn called for the Confederate standard to be removed from that state’s flag.
We must always remember our past, but that does not mean we must let it define us.”
Gunn’s remarks were lauded for their “courage.” Oh, please.
Where is the courage in a milquetoast comment like that?
How much courage does it take, even in Mississippi, to declare an end to southern opposition to civil rights in the year 2015?
The problem isn’t really grammar, it’s a lack of logic. It’s doublespeak.
And it is no wonder, with public officials routinely trotting out corporate doublespeak in response to every political debate, that the American public possesses so little clarity about what’s real and what’s not.
That is how we get Republicans who think that U.S. President Barack Obama is a Kenyan-born socialist. He’s a U.S. citizen; it’s a verifiable fact.
Yet no one in the media or even in the Democratic Party is willing to set the record straight in a straightforward, strident way.
It is also why we are treated to a climate change “debate” where there are supposedly two sides, each equally valid, each equally entitled to a public hearing and respect. There aren’t two valid sides. Climate change is a proven scientific fact.
American politics are childish and unsophisticated. If they didn’t affect billions of people and the fate of the planet itself, these politicians would be hilarious.
Image one: Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, TeaParty.org, All Rights Reserved.
Image three and cover shot: Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn via clarionledger.com, All Rights Reserved.