Richard Weaver wrote a gem of a book entitled Ideas Have Consequences. I heartily recommend it, although that is not the subject of this post.
To paraphrase Mr. Weaver, words also have consequences. The choice of words convey and reveal meaning and intention. Sometimes the choice of words inadvertently conveys meaning which was unintended. These situations either result from a poor choice of words or betray a purpose which was not intended to be conveyed. In the case of the latter, one must then determine whether the purpose conveyed represents the true purpose intended.
Deconstructing politicians’ choice of words often provides a minefield of hidden meanings because their stated purposes often differ so much from what they want you to believe. M. J. Mollenhour provides an example from a recent speech of President Obama:
From President Obama’s campaign kickoff speech, Columbus, Ohio, May 5, 2012: ”This country is at its best when we harness the God-given talents of every individual….”
Warning, Americans: For those not raised in farm country, “harness” is more than a verb implying a general, cooperative marshaling of talent.
A harness is a set of fetters strapped to a beast of burden.Some master at the other end holds the reins that control the beast. The master uses the harness to make the beast work. If the beast is obstinate, the master whips the beast, and uses food and water to compel the beast’s passive cooperation.
Analyze this clause, spoken by the president: “…we harness the God-given talents of every individual….”
Who, do you think he means as “we?”
You Democrats out there immediately want to react, thinking that “we” are all of us. But, Democrat readers, all of us do not have the power to harness anyone or anything. The masters holding the reins are the people who make, administer, and enforce the laws and regulations. And they know it.
Who do you think wears this harness, the one our president imagines using? Remember: this is his word.
Now, imagine a different way of thinking—in which no one presumes either to need the harness, or to have the power to strap anyone into it. Imagine a country where people chose how they exercised their God-given talents free of the straps, buckles, reins, and whips of the master.
Revise the president’s sentence, and contrast his words with these: “The country is at its best when every citizen lives, works, rests, spends and saves as his conscience and his God guide him.”
And, do not think for a single second that the president’s use of the word “harness” was a mere, inconsequential, careless choice. Some speech writer selected that word because that is how the speech writer—and the president—think.
I do not want to be “harnessed” by my government to do work that President Obama and his party dictate, reward, punish, regulate, penalize, or tax.
Is Mr. Mollenhour reading too much into Mr. Obama’s choice of words? I don’t believe so. It appears as though Mollenhour has picked up an unintentional, random act of truth in an Obama statement. His choice of words reveals Mr. Obama’s mindset. Did Mr. Obama wish to convey the meaning suggested above? Of course not! But Mollenhour’s deconstruction is entirely consistent with the manner in which Obama views the role of government as it relates to people. Government is the Master and people exist to serve their Master. If you are deemed to be a good servant, government will reward you. In Mr. Obama’s conception of the world, it is good to be King but not so good to be a peasant serving the King.
This view is not the America I grew up in, nor is it an America in which I wish to live. I suspect that an overwhelming majority of Americans feel the same way. This message is the one that needs to get out in whatever form possible because it is so contradictory with what has been the land of freedom.