Our guest, Gary W. Goldstein, on our show this past Monday night, reminded me of the use of our language and how we can use language in a way that will help us and also use it in a way that can hurt us. I was thinking about that today and then thought of how language can be used to deceive us too, or language can make us look at things differently. Looking at things differently can also be one of those things that can be used for us or against us.
I suppose if a child has learned that the word “medicine” signifies something that is supposed to be good for you, but is something that tastes real bad, using the word “medicine” is not a good idea if a child needs to take a certain medicine. Though I am not in agreement with most medicine for children, the argument works. And though I would hope a parent doesn’t choose to lie to their children, I suppose it would be wise and not technically a lie to call some medicine cough syrup, if that is indeed what it is and if those words don’t have a charge on them for the child.
I came across this kind of thing when I was learning the French language. I learned that beef was boeuf, in French. So one day when I was trying to say “cow” in French, I used the word boeuf and was corrected and told that the word for cow was vache, not boeuf. All this time I had assumed that we Americans call cow’s meat beef because the word beef comes from the French word boeuf, especially since I had heard the phrase, “viande du beouf,” which translates into “beef’s meat,” in English. It would follow for me that if “beef’s meat,” is “viande du beouf,” then beouf is cow. But not so.
I thought, well wait, we call beef beouf because of the French, but why do the French not cows beouf. The answer I was given is “who would want to eat cow? We don’t eat animals, we eat meat.” Interesting. So, if you call medicine cough syrup I may be more inclined to take it? I am not saying that meat is medicine, but is it possible that we really separate what meat is and where it comes from so much because of a little change in words that we forget that beef is really a chopped up cow? And would we really not eat it if we called it a chopped up cow?
Maybe, just maybe. The power of words and language got to me today and I wondered where else we may be deceiving or playing this little mind games for our benefit or for our detriment? Immediately the word troop came to mind. I have never really given it too much thought when I hear “a thousand troops were deployed to the war zone today,” or comments like that. I never really equated that to people. In fact, years ago, I always thought troops meant like a whole group of people part of a troop. But then when I started realizing that “thousands of troops were deployed…,” that it was impossible to have thousands of groups and that troop must actually be referring to people, or at the time, men.
I wondered why at the time why the news said “troops,” and not soldiers or men instead of troops, you know, calling it what it is. But I never gave it much thought after that. Then today, while thinking about my conversation with Gary, my mind went to my old question about “troops,” and the thought came to me, “is it possible that the word is used to deceive? Is it possible that the word is used because we don’t have the same charge on it as we do men? Or is it just that when a “man,” or nowadays, a person, is trained to fight and kill other men and women and maybe even children, that they become a “troop” and therefore not just an ordinary person anymore and that is the distinction that is being made here? Or maybe it is as innocent as the word “troop” is short for trooper?”
No matter what the reality, whether it is an insidious way of desensitizing or whether it is an innocent use of the word, it troubled me, because the end result is still one of avoiding, whether by design or not, what is reality. If every day on the news I heard that so many “men” were deployed and I thought of the consequences of that… Or better yet, American men and women died today in the way, as opposed to a thousand troops died today. Hmmm. If we go further with this, when you say men and women, we might actually think the following. “A thousand men and women who have mothers and fathers, and who have wives and husbands and who laughed and loved and who have children of their own, died today…” It might be too close to our hearts, we might think differently, it might make us think, “men and women dying, wait, I am a man, I am a woman, I know a man, I know a woman, I would hate to see that person die or to die myself.”
But I don’t know a “troop,” I don’t relate to “troop,” and no one has ever called me a “troop.” I wonder too, if we really thought about the people that are dying and if instead of the news saying “a thousand troops died today,” if the news took the next hour to show us the picture of each “troop” that died and maybe showed us a short clip of the life they had before becoming a “troop,” if we would ask ourselves on a daily basis, is this really what I want? Are we really fighting for freedom here? Is there really not another way to get freedom or to change the way things are done without killing this person?
I can just hear some people saying, “does he not know the price for freedom?” “Is he not grateful for it?” “Doesn’t he believe this is being done for him and ‘his’ Country?”
Sure, I can want and I can believe all of that. But here’s an interesting point. If someone came to your door and said that they were going to sell you a Ferrari and all it was going to cost you is ten dollars. You might say, “well, I really want a Ferrari, and I never thought I could afford one, and though I don’t really believe I can have one for ten dollars, but hell, it’s only ten dollars and if the guy runs away with my money, so what, it’s only ten dollars.” You might give him ten dollars in the hope that through some strange stroke of luck, you got hit up by a crazy man trying to give all his expensive things away for $10.
But if that same person came to the door and said that he was going to sell you a Ferrari and all it would cost you is $10,000. Now, you know a Ferrari costs ten times more, at least than $10,000 and if you had the $10,000, wouldn’t that be a good buy? And what would the neighbors think? And just think how great it would be to drive a Ferrari, especially when you only paid $10,000. But even $10,000 is a lot of money, but it’s doable. BUT, you want to see that Ferrari, you want to make sure it is for real and that this man has the authority to sell it to you. You want to make sure that it has wheels and an engine and runs and won’t cost you $100,000 to get it into working condition. YOU have more skin in the game with $10,000 at stake.
So, if we are trading troops for “freedom,” well, that’s a fare price, one could say. But if someone came to your door selling you freedom and wanted your son and or daughter in exchange for it, I wonder if we would say, “show me that by winning this war we will really have freedom and that this isn’t serving something else you have up your sleeve.” I’m just saying…
In the meantime, I respect, thank, and send love to our men and women, fathers and mothers, children, cousins, aunts uncles, friends, lovers, husbands, wives, clowns, engineers, carpenters, waiters, entrepreneurs, auto salesmen… who are doing what they think is the right thing and have good intention, and that is to keep what they believe is their Country, Our Country safe and sovereign.