This morning on Meet The Press, Newt Gingrich made an excellent point when he said, “The next decade will be a decade of honest conversation.” In order for that conversation to take place, however, we need to find the language to do that.
Words matter. We change the way we speak to indicate a change in the way we think. It works the other way too. Words influence our views. It comes down to a difference between denotation and connotation. A word’s dictionary definition is its denotation. The feeling or image a word evokes is its connotation. The spirit behind political correctness is an admirable one because of this.
The era of political correctness has held us back in some ways because it seems to justify an absence of critical thought. There is a War on Terror even if President Obama refuses to call it that. The events of recent months prove it. Just consider the attack at Fort Hood as well as those recently arrested in Denver, Detroit, New York and Pakistan in connection with potential threats to American’s safety. There are threats, but who or what is the enemy? Why is it politically incorrect to call them Islamic extremists? What unifies these terrorists if not their religious fanaticism? Can you be tolerant of religious differences while still distinguishing when one group hides behind a religion to push forward a criminal agenda? Yes, we must be able to do that in order to have that honest conversation Gingrich so rightly called for.
Let’s start talking.
Perhaps we can start with the term “profiling.” It is a fact that law enforcement agencies are on the lookout for certain characteristics when it comes to solving– and preventing– crimes. A criminal’s M.O. is just one aspect of this. So are cultural, racial and religious markers.
It is a fact that profiling has been misused as an excuse to ’round up the usual suspects,’ be they Irish, Italian, Black or Hispanic. Humans can misuse any good invention. That’s characteristic of the species.
So in an honest conversation about Terrorism we have to get past the complaint that profiling terrorists can be misused. Instead we must concentrate on how to use the law-enforcement tool properly and effectively.
And part of that is for all Parties and American leaders to accept– once and for all– that there is a strain or sect of Islam that is not peaceful, tolerant or even rational. It has an agenda of forcing Shari’a and the Caliphate on everyone, Moslems and non-Moslems alike. And it is spread in certain types of schools and its adherents speak and behave in easily recognizable ways that almost inevitably lead to violent terroristic acts.
And we should acknowledge that it is perfectly acceptable for the United States to defend itself with even lethal force against any group that seeks to coerce us to accept their politics and culture and religion. After all, that was the basis of our cause for revolutionary independence in the first place.
It would be an honest start if we would have no more ‘debate’ on this subject and adopt a consistent bi-partisan national policy of waging war on such groups until they cease to be a threat. The British Empire did succeed against the Thugs. It can be done.
Words do matter, that’s why the term “War on Terror” is ludicrous and always has been. Terror in military terms is a tactic. You cannot declare war on a tactic. Our country has used techniques that can be described by some as terror beginning with the Revolutionary War, where we are outgunned and fighting better trained and armed troops. Many now argue that dropping two atomic bombs on civilian targets in Japan during WWII were acts of terrorism, as we could have easily chosen better military targets, or just bombed one city. Saying we have a war on “terror” is like saying we have a war on naval vessels or we have a war on flanking maneuvers. It’s inaccurate and allows our leaders to switch targets at will (like going to Iraq instead of Afghanistan and Pakistan) and it makes no sense.
What we have is a war against Muslim extremists who have declared jihad against the United States. These people did not just use words, they used both terrorism and conventional military tactics to fight against us. If words matter, we should find a way to accurately say who we are fighting. We are at war with the Taliban and their supporters. We are at war with Al Queda and their supporters. This is what G.W. Bush said after 9/11 and it is still true today. That is who we are fighting in Afghanistan. I fully support this war and think we need to see it through.
I do not believe that dropping the term “War on Terror” has anything to do with political correctness. It has to do with accuracy and accountability. I believe that an honest discussion about the war in Afghanistan is just now starting to happen in a way that was not possible even a year ago and in a way that never happened about the war in Iraq. Even though many are coming out against a war that I personally support, I’m glad to see it happening. I would love to see both sides have a civil discourse.
Thanks for reading and commenting!
It’s true that a freedom fighter and a terrorist can be and often are the same person. The phrasing frames the reaction. We cheer the freedom fighter and attack the terrorist. Therefore, I can understand why anyone involved in a cause would like to have freedom in the title.
The real problem with so much of this partianship is an us vs. them mentality. I refuse to believe that Obama is an idiot or has an agenda that is not meant to protect and serve Americans. Likewise, I think those that labeled Bush that way weren’t thinking critically either.
It’s difficult to support these wars without a clear ending date. Like Bush, Obama has shown that this is a much more complex effort than a 6 month or 18 month exit projection would allow. Of course it is much more appealing to hear the promise that it will be that simple and this is when those in power fall short by making false claims because it plays well with an already frustrated American public.
I accept that our elected officials are way more informed than I am on military strategy and I have faith that they will do their best to keep Americans safe. I can’t imagine the burden Bush or Obama felt making the decision to send our troops into harm’s way and keeping them there.
I think there is a lack of seriousness going on in Washington right now that just turns my stomach. There is so much “gotcha” going on right now on BOTH sides of the aisle, it makes me wonder why most of these knuckleheads were elected.
I also think there is a serious disconnect between what Washington thinks is important and what the electorate thinks is important. Healthcare reform/takeover now? Really? I mean RIGHT NOW?!?!?! Yes, because of the 60 seats held in the Senate. Most Americans think the system needs to be fixed, but now?!?!
I think language is important, so long as the debate over language doesn’t “take our eye off the ball” that evil people in the world hate us. They want us dead. They don’t distinguish between a soldier with a rifle or a mother with her baby. These people need to be stopped and us apologizing for real or imagined sins of the last eight years won’t stop them. It makes us look weak and unserious.
Oh, and please don’t dismiss my comments as a rant of a bitter Republican. I am a conservative, socially and fiscally, but I’m pretty peeved at the right side of the aisle too. “Compassionate Conservativism” was code for big spending and that’s not conservative. The GOP also didn’t have any/many credible candidates to run in the last election cycle that also bothers me. I am pretty much now seeing both parties as one (they both snipe at each other, rather than solve the big problems), the party of “Government” and all I really want out of that party is to pay attention to the base of Maslow’s Hierarchy of need and keep us safe (I’ll get my own shelter), and get your hand out of my wallet.
Happy New Year!