Point of View: Lingual Assault

“Make America Prate Again”

A month from now we’ll know if there will be a course correction politically, as many hope, though how many will back up that hope by voting — presumably for a more evenhanded, more thoughtful, less lacerating society — remains to be seen. I hope there’ll be a record midterm turnout.

In an age when it is abundantly obvious that people must act more in concert with one another than against one another, the earth’s health and the health of the people who live on it being paramount, nationalism, born of fear, is raising its hateful head again.

“Don’t talk to me about the environment,” my late stepfather once said, drawing the word out at length, especially the second syllable, and eliding it with the third. 

But it occurs to me what else other than our surroundings — surroundings of which we are, while we’re here, a part — is there to talk about? It’s all about the environment, in fact, and our environment, the state of nature, the state of the world, seems to be suffering, even while agreeing that it is our lot, much more than it should.

If language is humankind’s best gift, then we ought to treat it better, rather than debase it so as many do now, “social media” being one of the prime offenders in that regard, or if not an offender in and of itself, a preferred channel, then, for offenders who are committing lingual assault in the first degree. 

We talk of values and the need to defend them, but you wonder every now and then what it is we’re defending. The right to proclaim our pre-eminence in the world? The right to threaten others (when they’re downwind of us) with thermonuclear annihilation? The right to belittle, to demean, to foam at the mouth, to preen, to prate — as in “Make America Prate Again” — to debase public discourse?

I see few examples of the evenhandedness, reason, and well-considered actions that so interested this society’s founders, our birthright, really, values which deserve allegiance and which deserve defending. Let’s revive them again.