Letters to the Editor

Pay attention to the meaning of words

The current discussion on the coming election is often filled with generalized opinions, and are the basis of this letter. If we are to make any valid decision, it helps to be informed first, know the issues and hopefully realize how government works.

How many contradictions do we find in our opinions and things we regard as articles of faith? Often, we condemn what we don’t understand.

People act as if words can be explained fully with more words, so let’s define what words mean in their proper context. The true meaning of a term is to be found by observing what a person does with it, not by what he says about it. In the current political situation, with media rage and divisive terms, we have a disconnect with the actual meaning of words.

Why do words generate an emotion or reaction? Language is, in a way, a means of using words to express symbols, signs and systems. For example, a belief either political or religious is observed by how people react to it. We salute the flag because it symbolizes democracy and freedom. It is a value that is meaningful to Americans. It isn’t the cloth that makes it valuable, but the meaning attached to it.

If democracy in the United States is to remain healthy, we need to discover what it means. Right now, we have two different reactions to ideas about government. Group No. 1 says it is, basically: no taxes, smaller government and no entitlements (i.e. a divisive word used to mean “socialism”). Group No. 2 says that democracy is the greatest good of all, medical coverage for all and higher taxes for the most wealthy.

People tend to react deeply and emotionally to words that inflame. They explain that the rightness of their words are meaningful. In other words, the other guy is always wrong and his ideas have no value.

So what is the solution? Perhaps it is dangerous and serious presumption to condemn what we don’t understand. I would like to see more cooperation on all sides of the aisles. The most rabid words only cause dissension and disunity and confuse the issues. To have any true conversation there has to be a meeting of the minds, or at least the possibility of it.

Words are our only method of communication. They are only as good or useful as the people who use them. In the 1790s, John Adams said American society was divided between the many and the few.

Listen to your own words. Discover what they mean.

Karen McMillan


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