The Power of Words

This post is not necessarily about the Arizona shooting. I’m just catching up with some of the other blogs on this site and have a bit to say about Mary Louise Olson’s posting on Jan. 1.
She alludes to the idea, gleaned from her college English professor, that “the map is not the territory.”
I, too, have admired that allusion and have interpreted it to mean that the words we use to describe something are not completely definitive, but rather offer a intrinsically biased explanation or characterization of that idea or issue, or place, or person.
We should, especially in dealing with issues that are hotly contested and laden with emotion, endeavor to use careful language.
Mary Louise went on to accuse the Obama administration of using phraseology to redefine (erroneously) such terms as terrorism, illegal aliens, and climate change. I disagree that the examples she cited are attempts to paint those issues in a more benign light.
Terrorism is an extremely vague word, being bandied about constantly and applied to many acts of violence worldwide. In my opinion it has not been applied to some that perhaps it should be, like U.S. actions (drones) in Pakistan; our new approach to discouraging “terrorism” by allowing our government the license to incarcerate anyone labeled a terrorist and keep them in places like Guantanamo without trials. This strategy has failed to gain us any real “intelligence,” damaged our Constitutional form of government, and far from curbing terrorism for fear of reprisal, has fueled the flames of hatred for the United States worldwide. The “terrorism” we are currently at war with is a “man-caused disaster” as Obama said and it’s high time we took some of the “credit” for causing it!
“Undocumented citizens” should probably more closely be “undocumented residents,” since they are not citizens, but “illegal aliens” is a phrase loaded with negative baggage that predisposes us to feel the need to “get rid of them” as though they were cockroaches.
“Global warming” was an earlier term for what is now labeled “climate disruption” for a good reason. Non-believers (what a funny idea, as though simply not believing in this phenomena would make it go away) were saying things like, “Ha! See, it’s colder this year. Global warming is a hoax!” Climate disruption is exactly what’s going on and the term is much more descriptive. If you want to view it as a ruse, go right ahead, but I’m thinking people can understand why the terminology has changes as the science has progressed.
Interestingly enough, Mary Louise’s next post takes the opposite tack, implying that Sarah Palin’s call for “targeting” Democratic opponents was just harmless talk, whereas the Obama administration’s definition of terrorism is an attempt to influence people’s thoughts and actions. Huh?


  • Candace Bettendorf says:

    Words are important. The specific words used, the tone in which a word is spoken, the time at which a word is used–all of these things can affect the perception of a thought or comment. Wonderful, kind people can become almost enemies due to word usage. Mary Louise and Katie are both wonderful people. Their ideas differ in many ways, but both care about other people. Both would give anything necessary to help a person in need. Please–agree to differ where you must, and to agree in the many ways of kindness that I know you agree.

  • Russell W says:

    I am non-believer that this climate disruption is caused by man(how odd that people believe Man can control the earth). The odd thing about your ever ending quest to control the climate, is that you and your comrades can use climate disruption for any change. Next thing you know, you just may take credit for the sun rising and the sun setting, because that is a climatological event. Those that come to this country via other measures than legal, there first act of joining our nation is breaking our law. If you look into history, I would bet that those native to this land, wish they would have fought back against the white man a little harder. Political rhetoric, Sarah Palin is guilty of putting surveyor marks on a map that looked liked cross hairs, just as the Democrats are responsible for putting Targets over GOP controlled seats in 2004 and 2008. Both parties are guilty of the discourse, but the man in AZ was a deranged individual that unfortunately killed 6 and injured 13. But have you heard any updates on the people injured in the FT. Hood shooting were a man practicing the religion of peace, Islam, went and killed 19 and injured 32? Why did it take the President 2 days to say anything, and when said, we could not jump to conclusions due to his religion? Yet in the Arizona shooting, the blood was still running on the pavement and the Liberal parasites were out in full force declaring this as political discourse gone awry? When there was no proof to this point. Words have meanings, but when one looks at the world through the Political lens of words, they can justify the use of words by those they like. And villify those that disagree. Much like your post, it is written not only wearing your Political lens, but also the “I hate what my country has done militarily” lens with a trifecta of the ever ending “I am Liberal, I know whats good for you” lens. You are a fantastic word smith, and if you could put down your lens that you write though, you may realize that your worldly view, is no larger then the inclusive city of River Falls.

    • Eric says:

      And your point is? All you had to write is “I disagree with your viewpoint” and add some original thought instead of going through the diatribe of a paid pundits talking points. When are people going to stop commenting with the canned rhetoric that is heard on talk radio or seen on the cable news outlets or read from a internet site. Originality of a rebuttal is becoming a lost art.

      • Peggy Steffl says:

        Could you tell us what is “original” about Katie’s talking points?

        • Katie Chaffee says:

          I can tell you what’s original. I said them myself. I did not lift ideas from nor parrot other writers or news people. Most, but not all, of the points I addressed were raised by Mary Louise. Those I raised were my own original ideas based on my own, personal observations. I don’t watch television.

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  • Brigida says:

    What a material of un-ambiguity and preserveness of valuable familiarity concerning unpredicted feelings.