Notable Quotables: On Forgiveness, Euphemisms

Notable Quotables: On Forgiveness, Euphemisms June 21, 2018

Here’s three keepsake quotes — one old, two new — for your mental scrapbooks.

Sartre Krugman forgiveness euphemisms
Illustration of French existential philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. (Flikr, CC BY 2.0)

 

First, the old.

My small-town local newspaper, while not generally on the vanguard of literary excellence, does have a great daily feature: A quote at the top of the Opinion page quaintly subtitled “Food for Thought.” And these tidbits are often well-selected and memorable. Today’s is a particularly valuable quote from French existential philosopher and author Jean-Paul Sartre:

“If you are not already dead, forgive. Rancor is heavy, it is worldly; leave it on Earth: Die light.”

Sage advice, that. I am going to try to follow it starting right now.

The other two related quotes for today are excerpted from an article by Pulitzer-winning columnist Paul Krugman in The New York Times, titled “The Devil and Tom Donohue.” Krugman shows the intimate connection between two news items: (1) The Trump administration’s separation of the children of illegal-immigrant parents at the southern border (which the president, under fire, only partially rescinded yesterday), and (2) A new GOP congressional budget plan that, after legislators earlier gave a huge tax break to the wealthy, will now short-sheet Medicare and Medicaid. Wrote Klugman:

“If you think these items are unrelated, you’ve missed the whole story of modern American politics. Conservatism – the actually existing conservative movement, as opposed to the philosophical stance whose constituency is maybe five pundits on major op-ed pages — is all about a coalition between racists and plutocrats. It’s about people who want to do (2) empowering people who want to do (1), and vice versa.”  

Krugman explained further that “the ugliness of this deal was cloaked in euphemisms,” remembering a quote by the late Lee Atwater, a famously aggressive former political adviser to U.S. presidents Reagan and Bush ’41, and chairman of the Republican National Committee. Atwater, a Southerner, once famously said this:

“You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger.’ By 1968 you can’t say ‘nigger’ — that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.”

Now it’s “tax cuts” and “reigning in profligate government spending.”

Food for thought, indeed.

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