We are going to take some time to try and understand how the use and abuse of words can change an entire culture and be destructive of faith. What words do to mercy when definitions and uses are changed is incredible.
Think of the controversy over calling a wall “immoral”. There is the whole issue of the abuse of language and the weaponizing of words on grand display. Consider what happened in just a few short years with the idea and the reputation of policemen. After 911 firemen and policemen and soldiers and warriors, (and here I have to exhibit part of the problem of the mess we are in) we glorified made into hero’s and generally talked about in glowing terms. Suddenly, and it seemed like over night what policemen and soldiers and firemen did was compared to what hip hop musicians went through after a two hour concert. Football players talked about going to war and playing with warriors. Basketball players talked in combat terms and politicians lied about getting shot at on runways of foreign airfields and wanting to be Marines when they were going to Wellesley. Others dreamed up entire military careers and after election had to embarrassingly change their life story. Even the so called newsmen (and women), the paragons of virtue and veritas lied about being in dangerous situations and in harms way just like the frontline military operator, or the average beat cop.
Then we heard of some professors and educators who were teaching their students that the folks who joined the military or the police were not the best and the brightest and they were stupid they we stupid. Policemen were not heroic and the line between the peaceful citizen and the barbarians at the gates was non existent. Then the rise of black lives matter tried to show that policemen were caustic and murderous. Folks took to wearing socks at football games that depicted police as pigs, which is a throwback to the day when politeness really did disappear in our society and that was the 60’s. Folks who denigrated the police were hailed as hero’s and received huge advertising contracts.
How did all of that happen so quickly and why? The idea of the use of words is behind all of this. If politeness means what I say it means and police by definition become pigs, there is a movement to change the nature of society. What we once called civilization is being reinterpreted. The idea of the city and citizenship is being changed before our eyes. Open borders and a free for all on the law is being promulgated while the responsibility of a citizen is being degraded. The idea of a citizen is being changed because there is a movement to change the idea of political identity. Talk to anyone younger than 30 and the chances are that they consider themselves to be “citizens of the world”. The European Union is a great example of what happens when nation states divest themselves of their politics and start policies that are meant to homogenize everything so that there is no one identifiable culture. This is all about a great levelling. There are no heroes, we are all hero’s. Fans at games are just as much winners as their favorite players and if they loose they have every right to destroy stuff because they lost. The obverse is the truth too. So do away with counting winners and losers. Do away with performance reviews – level all, except for the ruling class, which is another story altogether.
One of my favorite authors is G.K. Chesterton. He wrote an essay on phonetic spelling, a fad that we in this country tried to go through for awhile. His assertion is that if you spell a word wrong you are likely to think it wrong. My contention is that if you deliberately misuse a word you are likely to be trying to force a revolution in the way we think. Here is a part of Chesterton’s essay.
A” certain magistrate told somebody whom he was examining in court that he or she “should always be polite to the police.” I do not know whether the magistrate noticed the circumstance, but the word “polite” and the word “police” have the same origin and meaning. Politeness means the atmosphere and ritual of the city, the symbol of human civilization. The policeman means the representative and guardian of
the city, the symbol of human civilization. Yet it may be doubted whether the two ideas are commonly connected in the mind. It is probable that we often hear of politeness without thinking of a policeman; it is even possible that our eyes often alight upon a policeman without our thoughts instantly flying to the subject of politeness. Yet the idea of the sacred city is not only the link of them both, it is the only serious justification and the only serious corrective of them both. If politeness means too often a mere frippery, it is because it has not enough to do with serious patriotism and public dignity; if policemen are coarse or casual, it is because they are not sufficiently convinced that they are the servants of the beautiful city and the agents of sweetness and light. Politeness is not really a frippery. Politeness is not really even a thing merely suave and deprecating. Politeness is an armed guard, stern and splendid and vigilant, watching over all the ways of men; in other words, politeness is a policeman. A policeman is not merely a heavy man with a truncheon: a policeman is a machine for the smoothing and sweetening of the accidents of everyday existence. In other words, a policeman is politeness; a veiled image of politeness–sometimes impenetrably veiled. But my point is here that by losing the original idea of the city, which is the force and youth of both the words, both the things actually degenerate. Our politeness loses all manliness because we forget that politeness is only the Greek for patriotism. Our policemen lose all delicacy because we forget that a policeman is only the Greek for something civilized. A policeman should often have the functions of a knight–errant. A policeman should always have the elegance of a knight–errant.”
I would like to add that politicians should always be “patriots”. Their policies should be just that – actions and thoughts that guard the polus, the citizens. The Biblical injunction to pray for those in authority has one function – so that we can live quiet and peaceable lives in all holiness and godliness. The function of politics is not disorder and confusion and impoliteness unless it has been changed into something demonic.