A Play on Words: Beyond Slogans to Critical Thinking and Speech

I know you’re thinking what I’m thinking: I’m obsessed with words! Not quite so.  I certainly am getting more enraged with some people trying to “ram” their beliefs and viewpoints down other people’s throats. Just try and correct my use of that phrase, “ram down the throat”. I know what you’re thinking here too. Only the GOP can use this patented phrase to describe the recently passed health care law! Yes, according to Boehner, Demint, et al,  Americans have been shunted, swindled, insulted, disrespected, and ignored by this new law. Who cares that more than thirty two million Americans are being given an opportunity to access “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?” Who cares about such trifling facts?

Just for size, here are a  few other terms that are being thrown around for effect:

 activist, radical, anti-government, big government, small government, social justice, anti-Christ, evil empire, regime, reload, baby killer, Hell No,  hypocrites, extremists, anti-America, intimidation, fear mongers, hate speech, free speech, inciting violence, militia, home grown terrorism, defenders of the Constitution.

I believe you do get a sense of where I’m going with this. In the current political and social landscape, who is using what words, how, and to what effect? What do these terms mean to people on either sides of the aisle? Let’s just pick the word: radical with a couple of its synonyms. What does radical mean and who or what ideology best fits that slate?

According to Webster’s NewWorld Dictionary, radical means “having to do with the root or source; basic; fundamental [a radical difference in their views] 2. very great . . . 3. in favor of basic or great changes or reforms. noun: a person who favors basic or great changes or reforms.

Fundamental means “of or forming a basis or foundation; basic.”

Fundamentalism : “movement with strict view of doctrine:- a religious or political movement based on a literal interpretation of and strict adherence to doctrine, especially as a return to former principles” (Encarta Dictionary).

If basic is a synonym for fundamental  and fundamental  is a synonym for radical, does it mean that something or someone can be both basic (foundational, original) and radical (essential or far  reaching at the same time)?

Whose ideology is radical here? The Democrats who chose to bring about a basic, fundamental change in how health care is accessed by all citizens or the Republicans who want to maintain the basic, fundamental status quo of unregulated health care for only some at runaway costs? 

Is any change therefore radical by definition, regardless of its direction (whether back to fundamentalism or forward to Progressivism) ? 

Who fits the definition of radical or progressive here? A newly appointed justice of the Supreme Court who had remarked quite honestly that judges bring their tacit understandings in rulings or a Conservative-leaning Supreme Court that ushered in Citizens United, allowing big corporations to swamp out America’s long standing one man one vote fairness principle? Who are the real radicals here?

I repeat the question: Who are the radicals here? The Conservative Tea Party fundamentalists yearning for the good old days of our slave-owning ancestors or the Liberal Left advocating for basic fundamental rights for all citizens?


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