Monday, February 2, 2009

Words Mean Things... Right?

This is not the post I was going to write this morning. THAT post was to be about one of my favorite things: my good dog, Kelly. Appropriately enough, it was to be entitled, "The Golden Assassin". (I promise that it will make more sense when it's actually written...)

As I logged onto my lightning-fast (and soon to be 5% more expensive) Time Warner Internet Explorer session; an article on a topic that I had thought about for the past week popped up on my screen. But I didn't think anyone would put the subject of this particular thought of mine into words. It was labelled, simply enough: "Under Obama, `war on terror' catchphrase fading".

(Question: Should the first letter of the words in a title of a story, or article be capitalized? I remember this from Ms. McGooey's Third Grade English Class, but would appreciate clarification if you have any. I'll go back and update the titles of my posts since May of 2008 as appropriate... Sure, I'll do this right after I walk to Washington, DC with my pig, "Wilbur", in my pocket to draw attention to the PORK in the current House Bill heading to the Senate. If you haven't already done so, you might want to call YOUR local Senator to request their opposition to this boondoggle. They've already heard from me.)

The article was a piece written by Associated Press writer, LOLITA C. BALDOR (I copied and pasted her name exactly as it appeared in the article. THIS is where all the capital letters have gone. They have all been moved to her name.)

Here is an excerpt from LOLITA C. BALDOR's article (you can read the complete text by clicking the title of the story above, in the second paragraph):

"During the past seven years, the "War Against Terror" or "War on Terror" came to represent everything the U.S. military was doing in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the broader effort against extremists elsewhere or those seen as aiding militants aimed at destroying the West.

Ultimately and perhaps inadvertently, however, the phrase "became associated in the minds of many people outside the Unites States and particularly in places where the countries are largely Islamic and Arab, as being anti-Islam and anti-Arab," said Anthony Cordesman, a national security analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank."

Also, from the article:

"According to the White House, Obama is intent on repairing America's image in the eyes of the Islamic world and addressing issues such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, unrest in Pakistan and India, Arab-Israeli peace talks and tensions with Iran.

Using language is one way to help effect that change, said Wayne Fields, professor of English and American culture studies at Washington University in St. Louis.

One of the contrasts between the two administrations is the care with which Obama uses language. He thinks about the subtle implications," said Fields, an expert on presidential rhetoric. The Bush administration "didn't set out deliberately to do things that were offensive but they liked to do things that showed how strong they were, and to use language almost in an aggressive sense."

Obama, he said, understands that language and conversation must be worked at and that it's "not just a series of sound bites.""

So according to CSIS, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and LOLITA C. BALDOR: By changing the words we use, we will have a positive impact on how certain parts of the world view the United States of America. Does this mean then, that once we embrace this new language of verbal political correctness, everything will be pretty much 'okay'?

I don't buy it.

The bad guys, whether they be Islamic Extremists, Irish Catholic (which I am, so don't get weird on me), Buddhists, Atheists, Protestants, Jews, Global Warming-types, or whatever religious affiliation; well, they know who they are.

The War on Terror by the United States was not an anti-religious action. It was an anti-Terror action. That's why it was called the, 'WAR ON TERROR'. It was NOT called the, 'WAR ON A CERTAIN RELIGIOUS GROUP (YOU KNOW WHO THEY ARE)'.

To be intellectually honest, we were not attacked by Irish Catholics, Jews, Buddhists, Protestants (the jury's still out on the 'Global-Warming folks'), or anyone else in my abbreviated list with the exception of, here it comes!: Islamic Extremists!

These were not nice people. These people were not using nice language about us as they flew the planes into buildings around our country killing our brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, children....

They slaughtered Americans to incite terror and to reap their reward of de-flowering virgins in the after-life, all at the direction of a mad man. The United States was attacked by Islamic Extremists bent on inflicting terror against US, the people of the United States. Call them what you like, but at their core, they were Islamic Extremists.

So now begins the era of conscious effort to be 'politically correct' to the eyes of the world
regarding our language. Personally, I think the real challenge will be to continue to keep the country safe, grow our economy, and stand for the things that made this nation the envy of the world for generations. If 'the words we use' are part of the equation, well, we'll see.

Personally, I believe actions speak more loudly than words. And actions are typically not mis-understood (unless, of course, you happen to be the 43rd President of the United States, in which case you just won't win, regarless what you do because the media HATES you, and admittedly, you sometimes just do goofy stuff (the Bail-Out comes to mind)).

Conversely, words CAN be misunderstood or misinterpreted. Especially when you spend more time thinking about the words you use, rather than the message that the words convey to your intended audience.

Words are important. Actions consistent with 'words' are more important than the words themselves. Neither one cannot survive without the other when it comes to successful national leadership. I just hope that President Obama and the Congress send the correct message to those listening worldwide regarding their verbiage and actions in the years to come. Our lives may depend upon it.

Just a thought.
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