Printed today in the local paper under the newspaper headline, "Searching Honesty in a land of distrust" (My headline, "Which democracy are you talking about?":
When I was a kid, there were moms who would use soap to wash out the mouths of offspring who were daring enough or foolish enough to use a cuss word around the house. My mom wasn't one of them, but I experimented and can report that soap really tasted like ... well, I don't want my mouth washed out with soap.
I thought of this home-schooling the other day when, not for the first time, I wondered whatever had happened to the once-praised virtue of moderated language. And that made me realize that since I am in no position to moderate the blabber-mouth tactics of the president of the United States combined with the feeling that national events have simply gotten too messy for me to keep up with, the best I can expect, perhaps, is to pay closer attention to my own posturings.
Aside from anything else, if I could rein in my own tendency to fling virtues and philosophies around without a second thought, I might be able to claim to have learned a good lesson from a man whose every pronouncement seems to require an explanation from pundits and apologists that begins, "Well, that's not exactly what he meant...." That sort of lifestyle may be OK for a real estate blowhard, but it is not OK with me. So....
As a small beginning in my desire to be a more thoughtful broker, I have decided to steer clear of using or listening too carefully to the use of the word "democracy." As far as I can gather from the outraged and the delighted, "democracy" means whatever the current user wants it to mean. Until "democracy" is clearly defined in a discussion, well, it is just a goodie-two-shoes lash that means I get to say what I want and you have to listen. Or vice-versa. When the word "democracy" passes its gas, somehow everyone is expected to genuflect. But what exactly is being praised and who benefits?
For example, what does "democracy" mean when the flying of the Confederate battle flag is the issue? What does it mean when a commencement speaker does not meet with the expectations of the prospective audience? What does "democracy" mean in a country where healthcare is widely regarded as a right and making money is simultaneously an ingrown imperative? Specifically -- which democracy are we talking about?
And "democracy" is not the only political football I have decided to put aside ... or anyway try to. Remember Bernie Sanders and the edgy sniggers that surrounded his "socialist" agenda? How many have looked up "socialism" and considered the practical and metaphorical meanings that can go into that word? From one standpoint, for example, both Christianity and Communism might be labeled "socialist." But it's so much easier to wink-wink-nod-nod and let the word go, whether as an insult or a bit of sanity.
It's all too much like Donald Trump for my liking. It's all too much like the idiotic traveler in a foreign land who is so convinced by his or her own beliefs that s/he imagines speaking louder will convey the one true meaning. Yes, it's earnest. But volume and a couple of bucks will get you a bus ride.
Anyway, the current state of confusion and the current lack of trust across the land has left this aging onlooker exhausted. I need someone who's honest -- or actually, someone I can credit as honest -- and I honestly no longer know where to look. At 77, I'm crabby: Why should I have to look? Why should a leader be so palpably thin on facts and thinner still on the nation and its needs? As promise after promise is followed by "well, that's not exactly what he meant," my sense of terra firma is weakened. I don't like the feeling, but it is time I made some lemonade out of the lemons that have been delivered.
As a dwindling news junkie -- someone who reads four or five news wires a day and watches the evening TV news -- I have found some recent relief in the recognition that I don't really need to credit those who cannot define their terms. I will do what I can to be sure of my own terms.