Stephen L. Rummler: Words mislead
Politicians along with others are using a lot of words and phrases that are at best misleading and at worst downright deceitful. Take for instance the word “freedom.” Freedom has been used to describe anything from the practice of religion to basic human rights. But the word means so many different things to so many different people. And sometimes these meanings clash.
The freedom to kill takes freedoms such as “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” away from those killed. Are we free to hire others to do our killing for us? If we do, are we free from the responsibility? Are we free to destroy human life if we call it collateral damage? What if two people fear each other, are they free to fight to the eradication of one? Are politicians free to start any war by calling it a preemptive war? Are we free to withhold material support if we don’t want our government to engage in an endeavor that to us is wrong? Let’s face it, freedom is at best a relative term. Nobody hates freedom as they themselves define it.
Another misleading term is “terrorism.” The definition I have most often heard involves the targeting of innocent civilians. This brings up yet another misleading term, “innocent civilians.” If I support and pay for an attack that kills citizens of another country am I an innocent civilian? Some would say I am a terrorist. Some would argue that I am an innocent civilian. Who is right? It depends.
This country’s laws guide us in many of these matters, but unfortunately our laws sometimes oppose important freedoms. Is it freedom of religion if one can legally follow only a portion of that religion? Does this country allow those opposed to some or all of its wars to opt out of support for them, and would that be fair to those sacrificing to fight them? Again, it depends.
So, when we hear someone using terms such as “freedom,” “terrorism” and “innocent civilians,” let’s remember that they are relative terms. And when we are asked to support matters of great importance, let’s insist they be presented to us very, very clearly.
Stephen L. Rummler
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