Another Perspective

Say What You Mean

Whatever the official setting -- Cuba, Obamaland, NARAL headquarters --  cynicism is the only spoken currency.

By 11.16.09

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Have you ever noticed that the world's most un-democratic countries often have the most democratic-sounding names? There's the People's Republic of China and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Best of all, there's the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (that's North Korea). Each is labeled "not free" by Freedom House in its annual report Freedom in the World, which measures the degree of democracy and political freedom in every nation in the world.

In the Republic of Cuba, walk the city streets or drive along the countryside and you will find government-erected billboards reminding the malnourished, despondent citizens how great the now half-century old revolution has been and how much their leaders care for them.

A typical billboard has Fidel Castro telling passersby, "Ano 50 Del Triunfo De La Revolucion. La Victoria Fue, Es Y Sera SIEMPRE NUESTRA!" ("50th Year of the Triumph of the Revolution. The victory, was, is and will be OURS FOREVER!"). Another billboard simply reads, "Vamos Bien" ("We're Doing Fine").

Whether they are authoritarian dictators or everyday citizens, people often inadvertently reveal more through their lies and exaggerations than they would if they told the truth.

Just as truly free and democratic countries don't need to constantly remind their citizens and other countries that they really do respect human rights and democratic values, having class means not having to talk about it. That's why when you meet a girl who insists she is "classy" and "hates drama," you can be assured of the opposite: that you've just met a girl without class who thrives on drama, usually of her own making.

And has anyone noticed how popular the phrase "thank you so much" has become? It is typically deployed by telemarketers or store clerks and often in situations that warrant nothing more than a simple "thanks" or a smile. The phrase can be self-defeating, because while the speaker intends to intensify what he is saying, he instead weakens it with the use of the excessive and often blatantly insincere so.

At the movies we are told that certain scenes contain "adult" language and situations. And there are "adult" video stores and bookstores with sections for "mature" audiences only. Inevitably, however, such scenes and films resonate most with immature people with childish sensibilities. And they typically involve things mature adults do not do by definition.

Last year when New York Giants receiver Plaxico Burris was charged with two felony weapons counts, his attorney told reporters, "He is standing tall. He is a mature adult." Which was a revealing statement to make about the then 31-year-old Burris, who had been an "adult" for 13 years.

Burris's criminal counts followed an incident in which he accidentally shot himself at a Manhattan night club then tried to cover it up. Burris's attorney's statement merely reminded everyone how immature and childish his client was.

Unfortunately, our president is not much of a role model in saying what he means. Barack Obama often prefaces what he says about abortion with nonsense about how he has thought long and hard about the ethical implications of some new policy or decision relating to it. In response to a question at a press conference last spring about his decision to use taxpayer money to fund research on human embryos, Obama said, "I wrestle with these issues every day." In The Audacity of Hope, Obama writes that abortion is "undeniably difficult," "a very difficult issue" and a "wrenching moral issue."

Based on these and other words on life issues, one imagines our president sitting up at night, unable to sleep, brow furrowed, deep in thought about the moral, psychological and constitutional complexities of human life issues.

But does anyone believe that the man who brushed off a question about when human life begins as being "above my pay grade" gives more than a passing thought to life issues, aside from considering their political implications? Obama's earnest-sounding words collide with a voting record over more than a decade that reveals an abortion absolutist who does very little "wrestling" over the morality of a procedure he calls "one of the most fundamental rights we possess."

Speaking of abortion, in an effort to revamp its image, the National Abortion Rights Action League in 2003 officially changed its name to NARAL Pro-Choice America. The letters don't stand for anything. Perhaps NARAL suspected many Americans are uneasy about an organization whose title combines the words "abortion" and "action."

The NARAL change exemplifies the abortion industry's shift away from the word "abortion," which has been replaced with "reproductive rights" or "reproductive health" or "a woman's right to choose." What is it about abortion that makes its proponents unwilling to say the word? Oh, that's right.

In 1991, fast food chain Kentucky Fried Chicken changed its name to the acronym KFC. The decision was due in part to its desire to eliminate the word "fried," which began to have negative connotations in our increasingly health-conscious society.

It's the same thing with the SAT, which used to stand for the Scholastic Aptitude Test. But then critics began objecting to the word "aptitude," ideas about the measuring of which have their origins in the eugenics movement. So since 2005 it's been the SAT Reasoning Test, the letters standing for nothing other than, perhaps, the day of the week high school students are forced to spend four hours cooped up in stuffy classrooms, sitting in impossibly uncomfortable chair-desks, filling in small ovals with sharpened number 2 pencils.

Of course, KFC still sells fried chicken, NARAL still exists to promote abortion of unborn babies, the SAT still measures scholastic aptitude and Cuba continues to stifle free expression and dissent. So why do they continue their transparent charades and denials of reality? I wish I knew the answer, but I don't. It must be above my pay grade.

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About the Author

Daniel Allott is a writer in Washington, D.C.