Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Language and Democracy

Language may be the most important tool in a democracy. If we assume a democracy is an expression of the will of the people, that will is expressed principally by their vote. A vote is communication in language, not force. Of course, in its republican form, that vote elects representatives who then, in turn, create laws. Hopefully, but not always necessarily, the Chief Executive obeys the Law. This is all done by language, written in the case of ballots, and oral in the case of votes in the Senate/House.

The point I am making is that what should effect policy in modern times should be language, not physical force. Of course this idea breaks down when we employ the military to accomplish what we are unable to do by voice. The use of voice in international affairs is, of course, diplomacy. Going to War is the ultimate breakdown in the use of language. The debacle in Iraq is an excellent example of this breakdown. The President was intent on effecting policy by the use of the military in 2003 in Iraq and, very early, abandoned any diplomacy.

Since that time, the value of words has been enormously compromised. The rhetoric of the White House, particularly directed towards the opposition party, has been intense. They have been accused of everything up to and including treason. Logical and rational proposals, such as withdrawing from Iraq, have been greeted with scorn and shouts of "Stay the Course."

Now we have the Baker Commission recommending withdrawal from Iraq, exactly the opposite of what the Administration has contended for three years. What is a citizen to do when confronted with language which is so contradictory? Who are we to believe?

It is clear when language breaks down, good government is not possible. When obfuscation becomes the currency of the times, there is no hope of unity. When, in modern society, it becomes every man, woman and child for themselves, bleak times are on us indeed.

Much more than anything else we need a Truth Commission. The American public needs to be assured when their President speaks, he speaks the truth. Another word for truth is reality.

As usual, I am not holding my breath.

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