Dear Big Daddy,
A Republican Assembly member, Joel Anderson, appropriated one of your signature phrases by saying “money is the mother’s milk of terrorism.” Does this mean terrorism and politics have the same mother? And who’s the father?
–Word games and other torture
I guess it’s time to put on my Machiavelli hat and start spouting fractured platitudes like “Politics is terrorism by other means.” Which it actually was when I practiced it–and as practiced by a few current members of the Leg, as well, bless their dank little hearts.
Recognizing that plagiarism is the sincerest form of using me when I’m slightly too dead to do anything about it, I suppose I should be flattered. And I’m aware that you lose control of any phrase you coin the moment it leaves your mouth–or that’s what I tried to tell my wife about some of the gems attributed to me. At least I wasn’t like most pols, who lose control of what they’re saying while they’re still saying it.
The point is, any sentence run through a translator to GOPspeak is liable to end up with some variation of the word “terrorism” in it. Take the sentence “Over 40 million Americans lack health insurance,” which gets translated into “Terrorism! Terrorism! Aaaaahhhhh!!” Actually, that pretty much works for any sentence.
They say that the biggest single difference between those on the right and the left is how we understand language, at least according to commie pinko America-hater of George Lakoff of the People’s Republic of Berkeley. Take the word “freedom.” When a liberal says “freedom,” they mean the freedom to have hot polygamous gay sex in front of your third grader. When Republicans say “freedom,” they mean your freedom to be a devout Christian (and to feel really bad about the hot polygamous gay sex you’re secretly having).
I know the truth–that freedom’s just another word for no campaign funds left to spend. The point is, our political parties are separated by a common language. Or, rather, they have two completely different languages that happen to share most of their words.
Take Senator Tom McClintock’s “apology” to Darrell Steinberg after a particularly heated floor debate last week: “I do object to the sense of authoritarianism his bill reeks of.” In other words, “apology” means “why you’re still wrong.” Come to think of it, “apology” may be one word the parties agree on.
Never mind that McClintock objecting to authoritarianism brings to mind kettles, pots and allegations of blackness. Though for all I know, when he said “authoritarianism” he meant “the making of kitten smoothies.” I used to speak Republican, but the dialect has changed quite a bit since I had ears.
But all this talk of language has really brought something home to me: How much I miss Dennis Mountjoy (and how deeply weird that makes me feel). With all this talk of changing term limits, I think changing limits for everyone is the wrong way to go.
The problem isn’t that the Leg is losing political and policy expertise. It’s that we keep forcing out the legislators who most amuse me. Rather than revamp the whole system, just let legislators and staff vote for one member each session who is just so damn good (or bad) with words that we can’t stand to see them go.
As for the father, I have honestly have no idea (can you tell I’ve said that a few times?).