Monday, August 22, 2011

Words Are Not Just Words

Kathleen Parker politely requests more courtesy and discrimination in the language we use in public. It's a request that's as welcome as it is overdue.

Our public discourse has been debauched and degraded for over 40 years, now, and it's making us a coarser, ruder, and tasteless people. The film and music industries have been in the vanguard of our culture's race to the bottom of the cesspool, and other institutions, like public schools, have largely given up trying to stanch the flow of noisome swill emanating from the mouths of so many of our youngsters.

Liberals, of course, never met a symptom of cultural decay which they didn't approve and sneer that those (like me) who have a problem with foul language should just get over it. It's just words, after all, they tell us, but of course this is absurd coming from people who would shriek in moral outrage if someone used the "N-word" or "faggot" in their presence.

Words are not just words. They have enormous power to hurt, to offend, to debase and to cheapen. Vulgarity, like the spray from a manure spreader, befouls not just the source but also whatever else is within range. The language people use is an indicator of their character and class, and to be in the presence of someone whose speech is a kind of moral halitosis is even more unpleasant than being in the presence of someone whose breath is foul. The latter is a symptom of inattention to the hygiene of one's mouth, but the former is a symptom of inattention to the hygiene of one's soul.

Anyway, here's Parker's lede:
Scene: An elevator in New York Presbyterian Hospital where several others and I were temporary hostages of a filthy-mouthed woman who was profanely berating her male companion. It wasn’t possible to discern whether he was her mate or her son, but his attire (baggy drawers) and insolent disposition seemed to suggest the latter.

Every other word out of the woman’s mouth was mother------, presumably a coincidental reference to any familial relationship. Finally, she shared with us bystanders her belief that said mother------ would not be welcome in her house (Hark! Good news at last!) and that he could very well seek shelter at his mother----ing father’s house. Aha, family ties established.

At this point, in a variation of deus ex machina, the elevator doors opened and we, the numb majority, were able to escape our too-close quarters, but not the diatribe, which continued unabated down the hallway, through the exit and onto the sidewalk.

A few of us made eye contact and returned the stare of recognition common among hostages. The understood sentiment is helpless indignation. What, really, can one do under such circumstances?

It was comical in a way. Seven or eight adults standing at attention, eyes forward, pretending that nothing is amiss or untoward, figuring we’d just get through this and thanking the stars and the moon that no children were on board and that this woman would not much longer be part of our lives.
Do read the rest of her meditation at the link.

It's Not Over 'Till It's Over

In the wake of the rebels' march into Tripoli yesterday the folks at debkafile ask a number of pertinent questions:
1. Where are the six government special divisions whose loyalty to the Libyan ruler and his sons was never in question? None of the 15,000 trained government troops were to be seen in the way of the rebel advance into the capital. The mystery might be accounted for by several scenarios: Either these units broke up and scattered or Qaddafi pulled them back into southern Libya to secure the main oil fields. Or, perhaps, government units are staying out of sight and biding their time in order to turn the tables on the triumphant rebels and trap them in a siege. The Libyan army has used this stratagem before.
2. How did the ragtag, squabbling Libyan rebels who were unable to build a coherent army in six months suddenly turn up in Tripoli Sunday looking like an organized military force and using weapons for which they were not known to have received proper training? Did they secretly harbor a non-Libyan hard core of professional soldiers?
3. What happened to the tribes loyal to Qaddafi? Up until last week, they numbered the three largest tribal grouping in the country. Did they suddenly melt away without warning?
4. Does Qaddafi's fall in Tripoli mean he has lost control of all other parts of Libya, including his strongholds in the center and south?
5. Can the rebels and NATO claim an undisputed victory? Or might not the Libyan ruler, forewarned of NATO's plan to topple him by Sept. 1, have decided to dodge a crushing blow, cede Tripoli and retire to the Libyan Desert from which to wage war on the new rulers?
6. Can the heavily divided rebels, consisting of at least three militias, put their differences aside and establish a reasonable administration for governing a city of many millions? Their performance in running the rebel stronghold of Benghazi is not reassuring.
7. Debkafile's military and counter-terror sources suggest a hidden meaning in Qaddafi's comment that Tripoli is now like Baghdad. Is he preparing to collect his family, escape Tripoli and launch a long and bloody guerrilla war like the one Saddam Hussein's followers waged after the US invasion of 2003 which opened the door of Iraq to al Qaeda? If that is Qaddafi's plan, the rebels and their NATO backers, especially Britain and France, will soon find their victory wiped out by violence similar to – or worse than – the troubles the US-led forces have suffered in Iraq and Afghanistan.
If Qaddafi is still alive and has forces at his disposal it would not be surprising to see him wait until the rebels start fighting among themselves, which they almost assuredly will, and then gradually pick them apart. The rebels wouldn't stand a chance without outside help, and how long that help is going to be available to them is unclear.

There's a lot of celebrating going on in Tripoli today, but if Qaddafi is still on the loose it might all be quite premature.