We’re Going to Need a New Word

Gen Michael Hayden at NSLJ Symposium

Michael Hayden, former head of CIA and NSA. Source: Wikipedia

We’re going to have to find another word.

That’s what happens when organized groups with an agenda do their lying thing and massage, twist and shave the meaning of a word that evokes powerful emotions into a meaningless, politicized hulk of its former self.

Words have power to evoke emotion and, with some words, outrage. Somewhere back in the first half of the twentieth century the big-time government monsters among us figured this out. Instead of accepting the plain meaning of plain words and changing their behavior, they set out, first to find substitute words that would blur the emotional response to their reactions, and then to batter the meaning of existing words into dust.

Thus, mass murder became a “final solution” which morphed into “ethnic cleansing,” while slavery and brainwashing were called “re-education.” Killing a baby was labeled a “choice” and then a “termination.” In this century, we have been treated to the spectacle of torture being called “enhanced interrogation.”

It’s all the same lie, the same manipulation, the same evil.

This manipulation of words is a separate and additional evil from the acts that it attempts to gloss over. It is an act of aggression, aimed, not at the victims of whatever it is trying to cover up, but at the sanity of society as a whole. If our words become politicized gibberish, our thinking becomes muddled and gibbering along with them.

The precise and honest use of language is the essential tool for precise and honest thinking. What the spinmeisters are doing by butchering our language is destroying the ability to think clearly of the citizens of our nation and our world.

Torture is the “final solution/re-education/choice” of the first decade of the 21st century. The deliberate destruction of our public sensitivity to torture through the use of lies and ridiculous parsing has led to the destruction of the meaning of the word itself. We have arrived at the it-depends-on-what-the-meaning-of-the-word-is- is point with torture.

We are faced with having to find a new word, even as the old one continues to be twisted, narrowed and broadened into utter meaninglessness.

What began as the American experiment in justifying torture to a population that had long prided itself on how well it treated its prisoners has morphed into the use of the word to label criminal malfeasance and taking positions on social issues that one finds disagreeable as torture.

On the one hand, we have our CIA and neo-con enthusiasts going around seriously trying to claim that water boarding a helpless prisoner is not torture because it doesn’t break bones and rupture internal organs. On the other hand, we have the totalitarian nitwits of the abortion-at-any-cost crowd at the United Nations trying to claim that the Catholic Church is torturing women by saying that abortion is the killing of an innocent child.

Top that off with a conjoined United Nations attempt to claim that the Church’s admitted malfeasance in the area of child sexual abuse by priests is somehow or other torture, and you’ve got a word that no longer means much of anything.

Did the Catholic Church torture children by transferring sexual predator priests from one parish to another? No. The Church made a hash of its own moral authority and violated everything it stands for. The Church violated civil laws and its own teachings.

Is the Catholic Church the only institution with a history of allowing sexual predators to flourish in its midst? No. Virtually every institution that I know of has done this, which would make the UN’s new definition of torture ubiquitous rather than specific. What is different about the Church as opposed to other institutions is not a matter of law. It is a matter of outrage.

The Church betrayed Christ by transferring those priests. Every bishop who did this put clericalism and the good old boy buddy system ahead of his call to be a shepherd. Every bishop who did this betrayed his calling and his Lord; his Church and its people. These bishops behaved like corporate CEOs instead of priests, and that is the outrage and betrayal of their actions.

This was not torture. As evil as torture is, this was something far worse. It was a betrayal of Christ crucified among us by the men who have vowed to represent Him in this world.

This mis-use of the word torture to try to advance political and social agendas is a specific evil all of its own. Torture as a word is becoming another meaningless victim of our desire to to do evil and not be called evil for having done it.

Destroying a word as important as torture has ramifications that go far beyond linguistics. It means destroying an idea, maiming our moral understandings and weakening our ability to think rationally.

Torture is never acceptable. Torture is an intrinsic evil. I’m going to write about this in more detail, but the American experiment in thought control via the many lies and verbal shape shiftings surrounding our use of torture against prisoners since 9/11 is an evil that is separate and distinct from the evil of torture itself.

If we are outraged by the United Nations propaganda attack of trying to claim that the Catholic Church is torturing women by saying that abortion is a sin — and we should be outraged — we have only ourselves to blame. We, the United States of America, are the ones who have destroyed the meaning of the word in order to obfuscate our own actions.

This brainwashing of the public mind by insisting that torture means something other than what it means has side effects. Evil doesn’t just stake its claim in our societies and content itself with that one spot. It is a kudzu vine that takes root and grows outward, overtaking and smothering our moral sensibilities.

The evil of lying to and brainwashing the public to accept torture by narrowing the meaning of the word into preposterous meaningless has a flip side. We are seeing that flip side at the United Nations. If a word can be narrowed into meaninglessness, the same word can also be expanded into meaninglessness.

People with agendas can use the residual emotion the word still evokes. They use this residual emotion to justify political attacks by linking the word to actions where it does not apply and than claiming a faux moral outrage against organizations, actions and even ideas they dislike.

The Church did not commit torture when it betrayed Our Lord by transferring abusing priests. That is not what the word means. The claims that the Church is today committing torture against women by teaching that abortion is a grave sin, are too stupid to try to answer. It is obvious propaganda. It demands that the public acquiesce in its own brainwashing.

But the basis for making such claims lies in the torture to which the word torture has been subjected in recent years by the social and cultural brainwashers of our own government.

The great sin — and I use that moral word deliberately — is the lie and violation of human thought that is propaganda and brainwashing by the callous mis-labeling and mis-use of powerful words. This is done first to lie to whole populations of people about matters of terrible import, and then, in its ultimate application, to get them to lie to themselves about the same things.

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Gobsmacked by Sarah Palin

Deacon Greg has the story. 

Evidently, former Governor Sarah Palin made the statement in a speech at the national NRA convention that if she was president, “water boarding would be how we baptize terrorists.”

She went on in this speech to indulge in a string of name-calling; talking about “intolerant, anti freedom leftist liberals” and “clownish, Kumbaya-humming, fairytale-inhabiting Democrats.”

How are these comments offensive? Let me count the ways.

First, aside from the issue of using torture against our enemies, baptism is a sacrament. It is the sacrament of initiation into life as a Christian. It washes away our sins. We were directly commanded by Our Lord “to go to all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

What was former Governor Palin thinking, to use this wonderful sacrament of forgiveness, healing and salvation as a one-off in a speech dedicated to hate, violence and the torture of human beings?

Second, the name-calling ugliness about “liberals” and Democrats is the kind of nonsense that has led us to the pass we now inhabit in our society and our government. Our elected officials in Congress have given up their responsibilities to govern this country in order to indulge in partisan eye-jabbing of one another. This language — which comes from both sides — feeds this hatred.

It is simply unacceptable for a person who has held the high office of governor of one of these 50 states and who was the nominee for Vice President of the United States of America of one of our two major political parties to talk trashy hatred like this. She makes herself look like a performer in a sideshow instead of a serious woman who wants to act in accordance with the common good.

A few months ago, I wrote a couple of posts decrying the filthy, misogynist and downright OCD attacks on former Governor Palin by MSNBC. I do not take back one word of what I wrote.

I do not agree with every policy idea that Governor Palin has, but no one should be subjected to the attacks against their good name and humanity that MSNBC was launching against her.

Now, I am in the position of making a public statement criticizing the over-the-top language coming from the former Governor herself.

I do not know if former Governor Palin wants to be taken seriously as a politician, author or commenter, but if she does, she really should re-consider these shoot-from-the-hip statements. She has been strong in her witness to her Christian faith, yet she denigrates the sacrament of baptism to make a cutesy comment supporting torture. Instead of talking about issues, she simply comes out with a string of attack-adjectives aimed at those she disagrees with.

I’m not doubting her Christian faith. I’m not even debating her positions on issues.

I am just saying that these comments are offensive on many levels. They do not give reasons or talk about ideas or even tell us what Governor Palin’s positions on issues might be. They certainly do not explain why her beliefs are worthwhile or something anyone else should adopt.

Just letting fly with a string of expletives is not discussion. By the same token, brandishing a string of attack adjectives and cutesy comments is not taking a position. It is hate mongering.

I like to see women in government do a good job. I don’t care which party they are in, I want them to succeed. I am not offended when people have ideas that differ from mine.

I’m honestly not offended by this very offensive use of the precious sacrament of baptism to make an ugly point in an overall ugly speech.

I’m gobsmacked by the stupidity of it.

Governor Palin needs to stop caricaturizing herself. How is this kind of red-meat speech-making stupid and destructive? Again, let me count the ways.


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