‘One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. Which road do I take? She asked. Where do you want to go? was his response. I don’t know, Alice answered. Then, said the cat, it doesn’t matter.”
And there it is. This timeless message by Lewis Carroll, author of “Alice in Wonderland,” unwittingly nailed today’s dilemma concerning the direction America is taking. The majority seem willing to going with the flow.
There are multiple reasons for a rudderless citizenry, but many believe a primary cause is found within our language. Our words have been corrupted; definitions questionable and always shifting; in many cases the truth of those words are lost. And with that, they are used as weapons by those intent on changing our norms.
The destruction of our words was forecasted by British political commentator George Orwell back in the ’40s. His book, “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” is quoted by those who believe America has lost its way. Interestingly, to the end, Orwell labeled himself a “democratic socialist,” and warned against political correctness. He called it thought control. He coined the labels “big brother” and “thought police” (wordiq.com).
So, we are prudent to ask: If words don’t clearly state our thoughts, then how does one communicate, even with himself? Clearly, it’s our responsibility to pay attention to our own words, so as not to perpetuate this practice. But, it takes consciousness.
Need some examples? Alan Korwin, author of “Gun Laws of America,” provides clear illustrations of word issues surrounding guns: Is it gun control or crime control, or victim disarmament? Guns kill or do they save lives or protect? How about the powerful gun lobby, or should they be called civil rights organizations? Guns are bad or guns are why America is still free? (www.gunlaws.com/politicallycorrect.htm).
Shall we make a similar list for mental health failures, pharmaceuticals, violent movies and games?
I would add to Korwin’s list visual messages imposed on America such as using children as propaganda regarding guns and illegal immigration, but refusing to acknowledge them when government sells off their futures (a topic for another column).
Turning to Biblical examples, non-Christians I hope will allow this reference in that truth is truth be it from Mohammad or Moses or even from self: “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter,” Isaiah 5:20.
And then, of course, there is neutrality towards wrong or just plan evil. It is the worst kind of abdication of responsibility. We might say, watchdogs that don’t bark need to be put down. Yes, I mean media, however, individuals are also culpable. If “put down” is too strong, how about “benched?” See what I mean about words?
Oxford professor C.S. Lewis called what we’re doing to words, “verbicide, the murder of a word or its intentions.” Verbicide is not a new trend, but proliferated when the politically correct crowd learned words are the best weapons.
One more Biblical reference: “The Tower of Babel.” When God changed the language, communication failed; the collapse of that society quickly followed as He intended, of course.
Folks, you know it too, regardless of our individual politics, when word meanings shift and confuse, definitions become lies. Then when used to pander to social narcissism and political agendas, the outcome is frightening.
It matters that we set our course, and communicate it clearly and shun clever wordsmithing; otherwise we’re bound to end up in a tree with the cat, or worse.
• East Valley resident Linda Turley-Hansen (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a syndicated columnist and former Phoenix veteran TV anchor.