Unfortunately, this widespread assault on our common language is not restricted to our schools. All around us, our language is being corrupted, with many formerly perfectly good words being twisted into meaningless "double speak." These politically corrected - but now incomprehensible - words have been distorted by politicians into blather that defies understanding by ordinary people. Although there are numerous examples of these politically maligned words, some of the worst are the dreaded "C" words.
The first, and most to be feared, is the word: "comprehensive." No significant national problem has ever been solved by addressing it with a single, all-encompassing, remedy. Although our beloved Constitution was designed as a comprehensive replacement for the unworkable Articles of Confederation, before the Constitution it would be accepted, it had to be clarified by adding the 10 amendments of the Bill of Rights. We are now up to 27 amendments; and have added an untold number of court expansions and interpretations. So much for being comprehensive!
But it is not my intent to criticize the Constitution, only to show that even the best laid plans, by the most competent and well-meaning people are subject to reality.
We don't have to go far back in history to find examples of failed comprehensive legislative efforts. The "War on Poverty," "Immigration Reform," "Hillary Care," the "Drug War;" possibly the "Patriot Act," and "No Child Left Behind;" and certainly the current "stimulus" and "health care reform" qualify as efforts doomed by the attempt to design one-size-fits-all solutions for complex problems.
"Complex" is another of the "C" words that should not be heard from Congress. Sen. John Kerry recently said (in essence) that Congress wrote laws in legal language that was too difficult for most people to understand, and that there was no need for senators to bother trying to read the bills before voting on them. Which is it: Are the bills too complicated and the language too dense, or are the senators just not up to the job? If we assume that the wording is the problem, what happens when the bureaucracy has to put the laws into action? Will bureaucrats be capable of implementing the laws that Congress wasn't bright enough to understand?
Another word that Congress should probably never use is "compromise." Although it might seem reasonable to settle a disagreement by a compromise, where each side concedes a portion of its position, this is seldom possible in politics.
Compromises are never really satisfactory to either party, or result in only temporary truces that never last long. Eventually, one side will gain supremacy and enforce its position on the other. The 1820s Missouri Compromise and the Compromise of 1850 were efforts to defuse the growing struggle between the North and South over slavery and political power. These acts were both comprehensive and compromises. The tragedy of the Civil War demonstrated the futility of attempting to reconcile positions that are irreconcilable.
"Compromise" also has a secondary meaning of bringing disrepute, and giving up one's principles for the sake of expediency. If we are confident that our position is reasoned and correct, there is no cause to abandon it. If, on the other hand, we can be persuaded by rational, factual arguments to change our position, that is a conversion; not a compromise.
"Competence" and "complacency" round out our list of politically conscripted "C" words. We recognize that there are some very able representatives in government - as well as many who are not - but the greater question is whether local governments, congress, the administration and the courts will rise to the level of competence needed to make crucial decisions for our communities and our country.
Finally, a word for about politics for the rest of us. We must not become complacent with what is happening in our local and national governments.
We could easily be faced with catastrophes if we don't ensure that our governing bodies abide by the wishes of the citizens, and not just the powerful, the wealthy and politically connected.
Rod Paramoure is a technical writer and lives in east Cobb.