deadly semantics

"People get uptight about the most bizarre things," Jeff said, nodding, as I showed him the pictures. I agreed.

I'd been zeroing in on a sweet little parking space at the store when the battered blue Dodge had caught my eye. I tossed my car into 'park' after whipping around the row, and had my camera ready before I walked by the car.

While I'm legally allowed to photograph cars, I prefer to do it as inobtrusively as possible.

Photo of a car seen in march 2003, used in a post called Deadly Semantics: of car, 2003

I had the lens cap removed and the camera turned on before I even came in view of the car. Thus prepared, the actual process of taking two photos took less than four seconds. There was plenty of light; I didn't even bother to check the photos to see if they were acceptable. I just shoved the camera back in its little bag, turned, and went into the store to do my errands.

You can determine a lot of things about a person from what bumper stickers they place on a car. Most folk don't take bumper stickers lightly; the sayings and emblems they place on a car are likely to represent their most strongly-held beliefs. Owners don't put "I like ice cream" or "Blue is my favorite color" stickers on cars. They put things like "Re-Elect Gore in 2004" or "One Nation Under GOD."

Bumper stickers are our casual way of stating beliefs too forceful to be bandied about in most polite conversation. (For those of you who ask, the sticker on my car is "Go away or I will replace you with a very small shell script.")

I'm thinking that Mr. Blue Dodge is a wee bit wrapped up in semantics. Anyone whose most strongly held beliefs end up leading him to put up a bumper sticker that says "W.W.J.D.? He'd Use His Own Name - YAHSHUA!" (and another that says "HalleluYAH Means Praise His Name")....I'm thinking we've got some semantics issues at work here.

I mean, shoot me if I'm wrong here, but if you're going to get real cranky about how a name is spelled or written, shouldn't you just go back to the original Hebrew letters and be done with it? Isn't there a certain amount lost in the transliteration from Hebrew letters (which, if I remember correctly, don't indicate vowels) to Latin ones (which do)? Yikes.

Call me theist, but I've always favored the idea of a Creator intelligent enough to know when it's being talked to, no matter what name we call it. I have trouble getting terribly upset about such things, but, at the same time, I know a lot of other people take this sort of thing with a deadly seriousness that leaves me just bewildered.

Take, for instance, the Pledge of Allegiance. Granted, I dislike the actual concept of a Pledge of Allegiance; it always had the distinct odor of Heil Jackboot about it, what with requiring kids to stand up in rows in class to recite words they don't understand while staring at a flag, and all. To me, civilian acts of informed voting and governmental criticism speak more of appreciating one's citizenship than any recited pledge ever could.

- but, in the midst of that pledge, is a sticky little two-word phrase that riles up a good bit of folk, and I'm not so certain that I blame them. I like a rollicking argument over semantics as much as the next guy, but I draw the line at dropping phrases like that into laws (or on money). Cementing specific religious phrases like that one into law will do nothing but hurt those whose beliefs fall outside those whose particular version won the day.

The standard Christian response I've seen to complaints about the "under God" phrase is, "But everyone knows what the phrase means! No one should be offended by a reference to God!"

Hate to break it to them, but that phrase, no matter how trivial, is an endorsement of a religion - Christianity. If we're all talking about the same God, and it doesn't matter how it gets referred to, perhaps we Americans could change to a slightly more inclusive version of the Pledge that would alienate different religious groups on different days of the week.

(See this page, the section marked 'the stand taken', for far better thoughts on this subject than my tired brain is likely to craft tonight.)

Perhaps on Mondays we could say "under Goddess," and on Fridays "under Allah." After all, it shouldn't matter - it's just semantics, right?

I'm guessing the guy driving the blue Dodge wouldn't agree.

Aren't the freedoms of religion and expression just ... grand?


Oh, I agree with you so! I am a rebel from way back, being one of the only kids in my high school who refused to stand or recite the pledge of allegiance on command. As for the Under God, I am glad it's out.

I just always "forgot" to say those two words. It's amazing how easy it is to always stumble on that one little phrase. *innocent look* I agree with you, though, Ames.

Actually, I just refused to say the pledge for the last 6 years of school. I stood there and made up my own pledge, or thought of destroying the school, or whatever occurred to me.

Ya know, "under God" wasn't even in the original draft, which was written by a Baptist minister. It was Congress, in the '50s, that put it in there. And it offends me. Always has. I've seen that car around town. I love extremist Christian loonies, even as they make me feel bad about my vocation ... ;)

Am I the only one who went to a public school and had to recite the Lord's Prayer at the start of each day? Only for the first couple of grades, but still.

That really makes me want to vomit. Thanks, Brad.

We were spared that indignity here in Bureaucracia by a Supreme Court decision several decades ago. Now that we are under the administration of the fundie jihad, this is likely to be eroded. I wouldn't be surprised to see some nut try to force communion on kids during recess.

Won't happen ... I think *I* would shoot Ashcroft first.

Well, the thing is is that it's not all semantics. In fact that is why when you drive down to the core of most religions, they are different. The best way I can attempt to describe it is that the road or path you take does not get you to the same destination even though in concept they may seem the same. Ravi Zacharias is a good Christian Apologist who explains this with much better clarity than I could ever attempt to. With regards to the pledge, things on our money etc, I don't believe pushing phrases or views down peoples throats is appropriate but people with power do. I don't think parts of our history should be altered though to satisfy PC'ness. I guess there are always exceptions to the rule though.

"I don't believe pushing phrases or views down peoples throats is appropriate but people with power do." What exactly are you trying to say? I often find myself "arguing toward the center" on a lot of issues. In my view, truth usually lies somewhere between the extremes. Sometimes, though, you have to actually SAY something when you say something. Do you really believe that using a position of power to impose beliefs on others is wrong? Then don't water it down by saying "but it happens" and dropping it. "I don't think parts of our history should be altered though to satisfy PC'ness" You know, I've heard this argument before. It's exactly the same one used by people in this state who wanted to keep on the books a useless law which prohibited interracial marriage. It's the rallying cry of people in several southern states who want to keep the Confederate flag flying over their capitols. It's amazing how concerned with "history" people get when "PC" concepts like freedom of religion and that pesky "all men are created equal" idea start getting inconvenient. There are a lot of things about my country's history of which I am very proud. On the other hand, there are some chapters that are downright shameful. NEVER let it be said that I think we should forget about any of them (lest we fall into that trap in George Santayana's famous quote). However, continuing a practice merely because of "history" (A.K.A. "We've always done it that way.") is a cop-out at best and at worst is a pitiful excuse used to hide much more devisive motives. Am I going to be leading a march on Washington to strike the word "God" from our currency? No. I don't think it's my fight. However, I will NOT let that previous comment claim the high ground of historical significance when I think the argument against it is at least as significant and historical. Political correctness has nothing to do with it.

What I am trying to say is that forcing your views upon someone else is wrong. Forcing people to recite the Lord's Prayer is wrong. But again, as someone said, they were required to do it. I don't understand how saying "but it happens" is watering it down. Clarify please. As for our history, my comment was more directed towards elements of history including words in the pledge etc. I'm not an advocate of practicing antiquated laws. Times change, society changes, etc and those provide the basis for the exceptions I was speaking of. I value other things more than the fight over the pledge of alegiance. I believe that corporate interests controlling politics, pre-emptive strikes against Iraq, and Ashcroft's war on personal rights are more important. Forgive me but my comment was not claiming high ground because of history. There are a lot of battles I value more than bitching about the Ten Commandments. This country is supposed to be a free one and people will choose to fight for whatever is important to them be it abortion rights or a Confederate Flag. It might not be that way forever and if peoples concerns are about systematically removing every reference to God in state-related things, then so be it. Having it removed is not more important to me than Ashcroft's assult on other freedoms.

Okay...this is going to be an ugly long comment, and I'm probably going to lose most people in it...but I feel strongly enough about this to chase this rabbit tonight. "I don't understand how saying "but it happens" is watering it down. Clarify please." Fair enough. Your statement "I don't believe pushing phrases or views down peoples throats is appropriate" expressed a fairly clear opinion. Since you took the time to post it, a logical inference to make is that you feel strongly about this and wanted to express the strength of that feeling...maybe with the intent of encouraging others to share in that view. However, you then finish that up with "but people with power do." This, to me, implies an expressing of resignation to the inevitable. The reason I say this waters down your point is that you have a statement that starts out with a clearly expressed feeling about something you believe is wrong...then seems to immediately give up on that feeling by resigning to the fact that the wrong is going to happen anyway. *shrug* What is that point of pointing out that it's wrong if you then turn around and resign yourself to the fact that it's going to happen? Both parts of that statement are valid, but taken together they just don't seem to have a clear point. "As for our history, my comment was more directed towards elements of history including words in the pledge etc." And that's exactly what I responded to. In the context of the possibility of changing the pledge and the words on our currency, you wrote, "I don't think parts of our history should be altered though to satisfy PC'ness." Let's break that one down: "I don't think parts of our history..." ...where "parts of our history" refer to the pledge and the motto on our currency... "...should be altered..." ...alterations meaning removing references to God... " satisfy PC'ness." ...implying that the motivations for removing these references to God are motivated by political correctness. I think I understood you perfectly the first time. You believe that the pledge and the motto on our currency represent part of our historical heritage. Fair enough. However, you then use that claim of historical heritage as the reason for not wanting them to change...and you simultaneously dismiss the reasons for changing them as being "PC". My arguments are that history is not a good enough reason and that other people here have discussed valid motivations that have nothing to do with political correctness. I simply provided examples of other times this has been done. I did not mean to imply that you agree with those examples. Here's the simple version: Stop and think before you call other people's motivations "PC". Their reasons may be just as good as yours.

Jeffie, I appreciate your clarification. You are right about feeling strongly about feeling strongly about the "forcing views" opinion but it is exactly that. I am sharing an opinion without the expectation that it is going to change the world. I also do not believe the majority of the group I was expressing this opinion to were the ones guilty of said offense. With regards to PC'ness, the motivations may not be for Political Correctness but that is their effect. "We of the Politically Correct philosophy believe in increasing a tolerance for a DIVERSITY of cultures, race, gender, ideology and alternate lifestyles." is one attempt at defining PC. This argument can run around in circles, I think everyone should be sensitive to others beliefs and feelings but not take it to the extreme in which there is an attempt to erradicate any reference to any religion in any text of the "state". As I said before, there are more urgent issues in *my* opinion that need to be addressed. As for my simplified version: I express my point of view, you express yours. If I think the majority of the reason for change like that is PC then so be it, my reason like you said may be just as good as theirs. I encourage people to share their reasons. This same conversation can go on regarding the issue of Affirmative Action.

I'm not going at this in terms of semantics and all that. I'm a would-be pastor [/me looks up and sees the 2002 entry, laughs, and goes on], and simply put, I don't mind "under God" being excised. Congress stuck it in there in '54, and I would have disagreed with it then. I'm also one of the biggest advocates against prayer in schools. I listened--really, truly listened--to the invocation at my college graduation. I wanted to puke, and I was thinking of Matthew 6 as I listened to it. But that's perhaps irrelevant.

Geof - I was a little chary of checking the entry list, mostly because I remember ... all too plainly ... what was going on in my life exactly a year ago. The 'jazzy Jess' post isn't as difficult to read as some that follow it. Sometimes even just looking at a calendar is too much.

Yeah, I know. But it did clearly state my vocation, I guess, and maybe casual readers of don't know me ... ;)

He's wrong, anyway. Jesus' real name was YEHSHUA, not YAHSHUA. Short "e", not long "a". (I do read Hebrew, as a matter of fact.) YAH does mean "God", though; it's one of a couple of different words that does. Hallelujah means "Praise God", roughly.

I agree with you, Amy. I vaguely remember a daily prayer in the earliest grades, and our national anthem (O Canada) has it's own reference to God; we had to sing that everyday throughout primary school. We also had bible class for several years.

I am a teacher, I have to say the pledge every day and then observe one minute of silence. Most kids dont' get the meaning of the pledge and just pass notes during the moment of silence. You can't legislate certain things - patriotism and religion among them - it just won't work. I wish our government would see that.

*Have to*? Where do you teach?