Posted by Tony zango from ? (22.214.171.124) on Monday, September 16, 2002 at 3:03PM :
In Reply to: Inarticulate, And Proud of It posted by andreas from p3EE3BFB2.dip.t-dialin.net (126.96.36.199) on Sunday, September 15, 2002 at 6:14PM :
Like Father, like Son
: Tuesday, August 27, 2002
: Boston Globe
: Inarticulate, And Proud of It
: by James Carroll
: ''I'M A PATIENT man,'' President Bush said the other day. He was dressed in
: cowboy clothes. ''And when I say I'm a patient man,'' he added, somewhat
: impatiently, ''I mean I'm a patient man.'' The president was responding to
: reporters' attempts to make sense of the administration's scorching but
: confusing rhetoric about Iraq. His declaration of patience amended his
: declarations of war, seeking to douse expectations of imminent attack while
: promising that hostile action will come eventually.
: The nation is beholding something that can only be called weird. Ever since
: Bush announced his new doctrine of preventive war last spring, his
: administration has been engaged in an unprecedented war of words aimed at
: Saddam Hussein.
: In the beginning, the justification for ''regime change'' in Baghdad was
: entirely a matter of the threat Hussein represents but no more. Now the
: justification includes protecting the integrity of threat. We have to go to
: war now because we said we would. Language is no longer an expression of
: purpose but the shaper of purpose.
: The United States, in fact, is in a crisis of language. This is what it
: means to have a president who, proudly inarticulate, has no real
: understanding of the relationship between words and acts, between rhetoric
: and intention.
: Consider his heated boast about his own patience. I saw his declaration on
: the evening news, and it was clear that, as he began that second sentence,
: seeking to emphasize the first, he meant to find another way of displaying
: his determination. But he was, as usual, at a literal loss for words. And
: so he fell back on empty repetition. ''When I say I'm a patient man, I mean
: I'm a patient man.''
: Bush mistakes tautology for explanation, a habit of mind marking his entire
: administration. Bush governs by assertion instead of persuasion. Whether
: the United States seeks to exercise power over the Taliban, or over Sharon
: and Arafat, or over Russia, or over its European allies, or even over its
: own citizens, the method is the same. Washington doesn't waste a moment
: trying to persuade the Taliban to side with us against bin Laden.
: Washington rejects Arafat as a dialogue partner and forgoes any effort to
: influence Sharon. Washington presents Moscow with ultimatums on arms
: control treaties.
: Washington rejects the International Criminal Court instead of trying to
: help shape its development. On the home front, Washington claims emergency
: martial law exemptions from traditional court procedures. In every case,
: Washington is avoiding the need to explain its position with the clarity
: and logic necessary to change minds and win support. Instead of convincing,
: Washington coerces. And why? Obviously, because Washington apes the style
: of a president who has no capacity for the use of language as a mode of
: The problem comes when, having sought to lead through the imperative voice
: instead of the exhortatory or the explanatory, nothing changes.
: The world is beginning to act like America's sullen teenager, refusing to
: obey orders. Bin Laden at large. The Middle East in escalation. A nuclear
: arms race on the cusp of resumption. A global summit in Johannesburg
: enraged at US arrogance. Even Europe openly contemptuous. And at home,
: Antrax killer unidentified. Citizens at risk. Economy shaken.
: In the face of such failure, there is nothing for the imperative voice to
: do but grow louder. ''The level of threats has increased dramatically,'' a
: Human Rights Watch official observed, concerning recent US attacks on the
: ICC. ''And threat inflation is a sign of a policy gone amok.''
: The post-9/11 mantra is ''United we stand.'' But not so. The United States
: is a splintered, lost country where words have been emptied of meaning.
: That is a symptom of post-traumatic stress syndrome, our national malady.
: We have been unable to give expression to terrible experiences. Our worst
: fears remain subliminal, but we recognize them in each other's eyes.
: In mirroring this unarticulated desperation, our tautological president has
: been the perfect emblem of the American condition. He is the maestro of
: disconnect between words and experience. Having emptied the word ''evil''
: of meaning (Iran is evil, but perhaps also our ally), Bush is now -
: incredibly - emptying the word ''war'' of meaning, too.
: His vacuous reflection of our mute anguish can be consoling because
: familiar - hence the high poll numbers - but it is the last thing the
: country needs. Mawkish bluster in cowboy clothes does nothing to nurture a
: community of purpose. It does the opposite.
: As a candidate, Bush openly displayed his willful illiteracy. At a loss for
: words, and proud of it. Many voters were charmed. Others were appalled. Few
: understood, however, that this abdication of leadership by the intelligent
: use of language would be dangerous to democracy at home, a grievous threat
: to peace abroad.
: James Carroll's column appears regularly in the Globe.
: © Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company
-- Tony zango
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