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Liberal Code Words

Exclusive commentary by Greg Lewis /
July 29, 2003

Over the past several decades, much has been made by liberals of so-called "code words" used by conservatives. Those on the left have, in fact, staked out something of a franchise with regard to conservative code words, and they use the designation to discredit Republican and conservative ideas at every turn.

The phrase "states rights," for instance, is used with a nod and a wink by the Left to mean "in favor of segregation." Never mind that it was Republicans on whom President Lyndon Johnson called to trail-boss the Civil Rights Act of 1964 through the legislative process. And never mind that "states rights" actually reflects Republicans' conviction that the centralized power of the Federal government needs to be curtailed and more power delegated to the people.

In a wonderfully ironic turn of events, it is Republican conservatives who today understand that only by putting budgets and decision-making power in the hands of state and local officials can the people truly come to power. That is because "power to the people" means "power particularized." Federal programs inevitably become enormous one-size-fits-all "solutions" into which individuals must somehow find ways to squeeze their problems. On the other hand, state and local programs — because they rely on local input to shape them — tend to address more directly people's real needs.

In the hands of Leftists, "the people" becomes an abstract term representing some sort of generalized populace, devoid of the particulars of day-to-day existence that give human dimension to our lives. As Josef Stalin, the ultimate icon for leftists, said, "One death is a tragedy; one million deaths is a statistic." It is this cold-blooded sense of human beings as a collective statistical entity that, to this day, informs liberals' use of the phrase "the people" as well as their policies and principles.

By consistently trying to redirect federal money to those at the state and local levels most immediately affected by federal policies (the current debate over who should decide how Head Start money gets spent is a classic example), conservatives elected to national office acknowledge in a real way that people are much more than statistics. This represents a genuine respect for the human dimension in politics. And it is precisely a disconnect in this regard — which sees liberals cynically mouthing empty code words such as "the people" — that characterizes Leftist thought and pronouncements and policy proposals today. A further examination of liberal code words will be instructive in helping to uncover the Left's strategy of deception.

One has only to recall the unmitigated disaster of Hillary Clinton's bungled — not to say illegal — health-care power play early in her husband's first term as President to understand that, when liberals attempt to put their ideas into the form of programs, those programs are revealed for what they really are: blatant attempts to seize power and consolidate it in the hands of an increasingly pervasive and dictatorial central government. In an important way, Left code words function as a blind, helping to disguise liberals' power grabs by diverting attention from them. What has emerged is a plethora of Leftist code words used categorically to denounce Republican or conservative ideas. These code words include the big three: homophobic, racist, and sexist.

Anyone who even suggests that all students should be selected for admission to institutions of higher learning on the basis of their academic records and activities alone is denounced as "racist." Anyone hinting that young children in organizations such as the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts should not be consigned to the care of those whose sexual orientation skews those children's potential outcomes toward at-risk-for-molestation is automatically tagged a "homophobe." And anyone who suggests that young boys are disproportionately treated with psychotropic drugs in an attempt to get them to behave according to standards that should very likely not apply to boys in the first place is, in a perverse twist of this notion, branded "sexist."

Liberals, while they might profess to be "for the people," are actually for a perverse abstraction of the word. In order to qualify in liberals' eyes as one of "the people," you've got to be willing to surrender your identity, your individuality, everything that makes you the person you are, to a category. To be one of "the people," you've got to be willing to see yourself as a statistic. You've got to be willing to see yourself as, for instance, an African-American, and as such you've got to agree to submerge your individuality into the class of the historically downtrodden, the class of people unable to make it on their own merits, unable to succeed without the white, liberal, plantation-owner patronage that Democrat politicians, and only Democrat politicians, can disburse. Bottom line: To fit the liberal stereotype, you've got to be willing to surrender your ability to succeed on your own.

Or you've got to see yourself as a "woman" who would be unable to express her individuality, unable to make her way in the world, unless she gave up what makes her the person she is to a group identity defined by a small and disaffected cadre of women who call themselves "feminists." If you don't subscribe to the feminist dogma that women are oppressed and that the only way to escape oppression is to embrace a political philosophy which sees socialism as the be-all and end-all of liberating political systems . . . well, you're simply not a woman in the eyes of those on the Left.

Among the problems with this position is that the repressive and anti-female government of Cuba's Fidel Castro (which, among other things, has recently been outed as encouraging female slavery, in the form of prostitution, that generates badly needed hard currency from foreign tourists willing to pay for sexual pleasure) is repeatedly showcased by feminists as the model of "liberation" to which women should pay obeisance. And the problem is that you don't qualify as a "woman" with feminists if you choose to take an active role as a nurturer in raising your children, if you're not ashamed to be identified as a mother.

In the past several paragraphs, I've used a number of liberal code words, words which those on the Left trot out to communicate surreptitiously to their comrades that persons thus identified are the enemy, or that the concepts represented are not to be countenanced. These code words include "individuality," "merits," "nurturer," and "mother." Every one is out of favor with liberals. Every one denotes something that is anathema to the negative and destructive agenda espoused by liberals today.

But more significantly, every one of them denotes a quality or the designation of an identity that is fundamentally important to the freedoms we Americans possess, to the values we espouse, to the principles that have made America the most powerful and the richest and the most beneficent nation in the world. Every time such Leftist code words are allowed to go unchallenged, another chink is created in the armor of the freedom for which so many Americans have given their lives.

We're forewarned. Let us make certain that we're also forearmed. Let us vow to maintain our vigilance in defense of the very language the Left seeks to co-opt for the purposes of undermining everything that America stands for.

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