April 09, 2010
Letters to the Editor
Angry rhetoric clouds judgmentI am writing this article out of a combined sense of frustration and optimism. My frustration is borne from the fact that I no longer understand the language of the society and the world I live in.
Let me explain. I turn on the television, and I hear talk of Republicans vowing to stop the Democrats at all costs. I change the channel, and I am confronted with Glenn Beck's infamous chalkboards filled with diagrams that claim to have rational meaning, but upon closer inspection, carry no more intellectual weight than doodles done by a kindergartener. I shut the television off and log onto the Internet and find the unintelligible ravings of Ann Coulter and her ilk. This is not an article about the errors of the Republican Party.
I can almost see you rolling your eyes at the thought of reading another tirade about Beck (or as I affectionately think of him: the greedy clown in man's clothing).
I fully understand that Beck is not real. He does not truly believe in the constant stream of stupidity and madness that drips from his lips.
I imagine he goes home, reclines into his La-Z-Boy, sips on expensive cognac and laughs. He laughs at the people who drink up his nut job flavored Kool-Aid and goes to light another cigar with a hundred dollar bill.
This article is about the machine we have constructed in which politics has turned into a play of domination between two clubs, where men like Beck can speak and actually be understood as rational, where Coulter can display bigotry that is offensive and ostentatious beyond belief, yet still be invited to speak as if there is anything she actually has to contribute to society.
This article is about our language and how it has changed. It is about power. It is about our power that we have neglected.
When I watch the interactions between the Democratic and Republican Parties, I am struck by how closely they represent a contest between the Yankees and the Red Sox.
No one ever roots for the Yankees and Red Sox to put aside their rivalry and come together to make the game of baseball better. They watch to see domination. They watch to see a winner and a loser. Since when was this the role of government?
It is an institution that ought to be concerned with more than marking ticks in the win or loss column when so much more is at stake.
We can blame the politicians and their slick words, photogenic smiles and beautiful families that combine to fill our heads with empty promises.
We can rage against Beck and Coulter. We can stand up and shout, "You all have become morally corrupted, and because of you our society suffers!"
But I would argue that this claim is completely unfounded. They are merely speaking the language that we have elevated to prominence: the language of domination. It was we, not they, who have demanded their existence. Indeed, we have made them necessary.
The Democrats and Republicans did not pull a fast one on us. They were formed by our language of domination, a discourse that only finds false dichotomies to be of any use.
It is us versus them. We are the good and they are the bad. We are the rational and they are the insane. We are the people and they are the government.
The constant warring in Washington, on drugs and overseas are all a product of the perceived need for an enemy to crush underfoot. How else would we be able to define ourselves without an enemy to defeat?
Democrats and Republicans have found this in each other. Beck has claimed to have found this in the current administration and "progressives." Coulter has found the enemy in the LGBTQ community.
But our language does not make sense. The machine, and its requisite cogs, is rusting and choking on its inability to sustain itself. We were content to build a structure whose bedrock was that of false dichotomies and then express horror at its existence. We talk as if the failing structure will survive until the end of time because its foundation is human nature.
But there is no human nature. Human nature is only what we conceive of through the current language of domination. What will we do when we finally track down our abstract enemies and realize we have only been chasing shadows we ourselves have been casting?
We have shaped the vitriol of Beck and Coulter when we cried out, "Show us our enemy or show yourself to be our enemy!" And so they obliged.
I said at the beginning of this article that optimism also fueled my wish to write. My optimism comes from the fact that language changes, words take on new meaning and we find other ways of expressing ourselves.
We can change all of this but only if we demand the change.
We have approached the enemy we have been searching for and have found that this specter has our face, our clothes and our beliefs, yet we continue to scream at it in our
language of domination.
Our words reverberate off the reflection and what meets our ears is not a logical and cogent argument, but a fiery rant filled with misplaced nouns and verbs.
I would like to believe this is why our government and our pundits have ceased to make sense to me.
The language I share with them has become obsolete. It has carried us as far as it can.
Now we reach for answers where we clearly see there is none.
We must develop a new language (though far be it from me to claim what this new discourse should consist of) or else we will be left at the chalkboards, drawing diagrams in an effort to revive an artifact that never had substance, never had meaning and never had any purpose whatsoever.
--William Paris '10
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