Even Orwell and Huxley would have a hard time understanding the vocabulary of this political season. 1984 is history and, in this brave new world - on the other side of some cosmic looking glass - it’s hard to tell a mad hatter from a queen of hearts without a dictionary. So, with apologies to William Safire and Crispin Miller, here’s my effort to meet that need.
Abu Ghraib. An evening of “Animal House” pranks carried out independently by a fun-loving gaggle of young soldiers and contractors. Not to be confused with or connected to similar goings-on at Bagram or Guantanamo.
Axis of Evil. Three bad countries, one of which did not possess WMD. Has spawned follow-on flippancies like “Honey, I think we attacked the wrong country.”
Bush Hater. Anyone who disagrees with the President’s policies. Someone with clear vision and capable of critical thinking.
Coalition of the Willing. That motley collection of mini-states (Sorry, Tony Blair.) like Micronesia who’ve lent us their names and flags for the duration. Unfortunately Spain and the Philippines are no longer willing. Their loss, however, has been more than compensated for by the continued growth of a private army of 20,000 of civilian “contractors” willing to do anything for a buck.
Cat Stevens. A dangerous alien and potential terrorist, who, according to Homeland Security spokesman Dennis Murphy, was “denied admission to the United States on national security grounds.” Formerly Stephen Georgiou and now Yusuf Islam, Stevens has heretofore craftily hidden his terrorist-related work as an agent of “Fear Itself” behind a lifetime of peace activism.
Conflation. The lumping together of disparate unconnected parts to form a useful albeit intellectually unsustainable whole. Examples? Repeated use of “Iraq,” “Al Qaeda,” and “September 11” in the same sentence or statements like “All terrorists are the same.”
Cross-dresser. Someone who regularly dons the clothes of someone he/she is not. Witness President Bush who has been caught cavorting in the uniform of a combat pilot on an aircraft carrier, wielding a chainsaw in blue jeans and cowboy boots, and falling off mountain bikes in Lance Armstrong look-alike lycra.
Dyslexia. A medical condition which causes one to see things backwards or sometimes, as in the case of President Bush, upside down.
Environmental Protection. Under this President’s EPA, an oxymoron.
Fear Itself. A phrase first used by Franklin D. Roosevelt to buck up fearful Americans in a time of crisis…as in “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” As currently used by Karl Rove and his team, a phrase meant to instill fear among Americans in the “Land of the Brave,” lest they make the “wrong choice” in November. Can also be used as a noun inter-changeable with, for example, Osama bin Laden, the Golem, and “Come Halloween, beware the ‘Orange Alert!’”
Fiscal Conservative. A Republican species, once native to the Midwest, now extinct, having been killed by the tax cutting axe and buried under a record deficit.
Flip Flop. Formerly a noun used to describe ultra-casual footware. Now used as a verb to characterize the actions of someone smart enough to change his/her opinion in the face of overwhelming evidence that one’s previously held opinion is no longer intellectually tenable. Antonym: To show steadfast resolve despite data that does not compute, a trait often interpreted as “leadership” when applied to our current commander-in-chief.
Get Over It! Shut up! We were duly appointed. We’re running the show. We’ll do whatever we want.
Iraq. Arabic for Vietnam (cf. quagmire). There are, of course, differences which detract from such a comparison. For example, South Vietnam had a government, army, and police force in place when we arrived, the Viet Cong never held any major cities to use as in-country sanctuaries, and Tet was a 48-hour spasm not an on-going daily event. Perhaps with such dissimilarities in mind, Karen Hughes, prefers to see Iraq as the “ultimate expression of compassionate conservatism,” bringing, as Newsweek reports, freedom to a benighted land.
Journalism. A once proud profession now on the verge of extinction in the United States.
Manichean. A heretical tendency to see the world in black and white, good and evil. To be shunned by those who profess to be Christians.
Old Europe. A group of substantial, cultured, democratic, economically dynamic countries that stood beside us for half a century as friends and allies.
Pre-Emption. A euphemism for an un-American concept of striking first (cf. aggressive war, illegal war).
Responsibility. A character trait seldom found in today’s Washington. Who me? WMD? Abu Ghraib?
Screed. A reasoned critique produced by someone who refuses to get over it.
Security Moms. Former soccer moms scared witless by Vice President Cheney who has convinced half of America that “Fear Itself” is at hand.
Stop Loss. Draft. Stop gap measure to see us through November 2.
Support Our Troops. Commendable patriotic sentiment usually displayed by large flags and yellow ribbons on yellow humvees driven by patriots whose priorities have kept them from volunteering or necessitated their checking the “Decline deployment to Iraq” box on their service preference cards.
Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. A typically-Texan oxymoron
Tax Cut. A tool useful in any electoral situation despite the real-world situation. Used liberally by conservatives, especially in wartime and times of fiscal crisis. Has replaced discredited notions like “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” Synonym: Generational warfare.
Turning the Corner. Going around in circles on the economy. No longer used by President Bush, since he learned that it was last used by Herbert Hoover in 1932.
Twisting in the Wind. Adjectival phrase used by President Bush to describe Senator Kerry. Used by others to describe American policy in Iraq.
Vietnam. A proper noun. A country not a war where a war that ended thirty years ago is being re-fought by those who can’t get over it and who, in their blinding pain, are being used to detract attention from an even worse on-going war in Iraq. They and their Texas handlers would have you believe that it is Vietnam, not Iraq that is the central issue of election 2004.
War on Terror. Useful conflation. Produces security moms and obviates need to distinguish among myriad forms of terrorism – a tactic not an enemy – or to examine causes. Just kill ‘em all!
Whining. Symptom of a failure to get over it.