I was going to write about ice cream this week–really. And maybe sometime soon I will. It will be light, humorous, memory-inducing and literarily delicious but…
I am so numb, tired, and yes scared about the fate of our country that I just can’t get into ice cream right now. One of the things that scare me is that I, who hold several degrees in political science and have worked as the executive aide to the mayor of Connecticut’s then fourth largest city, is that I am numb and tired. Right now, every American should be looking for adrenal glands implants. We need every bit of “go-get’im” juice we can. As I’ve quoted before, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.” Tired and numb are downright dangerous.
Then I had another thought. I am about to enroll in a university level advanced conversational Spanish course so that I might better converse with my grandson’s nanny and my daughter-in-law’s lovely family, most of whom speak English but are more comfortable in their native Spanish. They hail from Peru.
I took five years worth of university-level Spanish coursework in college. Reflecting on it, I was hit with a thought I’m going to ponder with you. In Spanish when you use an exclamation point it goes first, upside down in front of the word or sentence it is emphasizing and then again, right side up at its end. Why? I’m sure there is a reason that probably goes back to the language’s Latin origins and maybe when I do decide to write about ice cream I’ll also research that. However, I have my own theory.
The presence of that exclamation point up front says to me, “Stop! There’s some idea coming that needs some extra thought so get ready for it.” Maybe the fact that it’s upside down is to give it even greater emphasis. (Btw if you know the answer, drop me a line.)
This all came to me courtesy of the latest bru-ha-ha from the White House, which I’ve been told, seen in the right light, every-so-often turns red from embarrassment. This is about the anonymous letter. Many of us, the media included, are too much involved in Sherlock Holmsing the author than thinking about what the author said. Then the president started calling this straw dog names. “Cowardly” sticks out. And it may well fit. I personally believe it should have been signed. But then he called it treason. Now comes the need for that first exclamation point warning us to pause and be prepared to think.
The letter we’ve heard so much about needs to be given a lot of thought, one thought of which is the proper use of language. This is something the President at best gets a D+ in; at worst a D-. Treason is a powerful word. We bandy it around in everyday language to imply someone has done something dastardly against someone or something. And while that captures a sentiment; it misses the definition. The definition very conveniently is there for all to see prepared for and agreed to by our founding fathers.
Article lll section lll of the United States Constitution–you know that document we hear so much about lately?–defines treason simply and directly. One has to wage war against the US or give aid and comfort to those who do. That’s against the nation, not it’s leader, it’s philosophy, or even it’s structural leadership. Conviction of the crime is also described fairly simply. There need to be two witnesses to the act at trial or confession in an open court. That’s it, folks. No more, no less. Thus, the letter, whatever it may have been, is more a freedom speech issue and not at all an issue of treason. Saying, “Well, you know what he meant” doesn’t cut it here. First of all, we don’t. Second of all, taking a guess, he meant it exactly as he said it, in its expanded, generic sense.
This and this Sherlock Holmes turned Inspector Clouseau, hunt for the writer, has a chilling impact on anyone who thinks about expressing contrary opinions orally or in writing. Once that happens, we don’t need to prove collusion or conspiracy with the Russians because we have become Russia and have our own homegrown Putin, without the tight abs.
The conclusion? Since our language denies us a warning to think about what’s coming, when we see that inference at the end of what we’ve read, we need the discipline to go back to the beginning and think–at least from my perspective.
Bill Gralnick, who unfortunately is lactose sensitive and doesn’t eat as much ice cream has he used to, can be found right here most every Sunday thinking away hopefully for all his reader’s benefit. More thoughts and even two books full of them can be found on his website http//:www.atleastfrommyperspective.net