Say What?


By: Mark Landsbaum

Discussion and debate has degenerated to meaningless babble with opposing sides talking past each other. In this dialogue, words no longer have meaning, or at least meaning everyone agrees on. Welcome to postmodern America.

Case in point: Thousands of demonstrators flooded city streets this week demanding “justice” for sub rosa immigrants who illegally have snuck across the U.S. border to receive taxpayer-financed benefits like education, health care and subsidized transportation, while taking jobs and artificially driving down wages that impoverished legal residents sorely could have used. On the face of it, one might assume that a demand for “justice” would be a call for the quaint, old-fashioned notion of lawbreakers being “brought to justice,” as in arrested, tried and convicted for their crimes.

Not quite. When these demonstrators demand “justice,” what they really mean is that they demand mercy, grace and forgiveness. They aren’t asking for what they deserve, which is the definition of justice. Instead, they demand mercy, which is not getting punished as they really deserve, and grace, which is getting something good that they don’t deserve, and forgiveness, which is being absolved of all guilt for their crimes.

With such convoluted rhetoric, the merits of the issue are lost in the noise. Protesters demand what they call “justice,” but those they demand it from hear something entirely different: a demand for mercy, grace and forgiveness. How do we discuss, let alone debate, demands for “justice” when we can’t even agree on what justice is? It’s impossible when you say “potato” and I hear “pajamas.” As the song writer wrote, it’s tempting to just call the whole thing off.

You say “justice,” but mean, “getting what you want.” When I say “justice” I mean, “getting what you deserve.”

In the same way, you say “gay,” but mean, “consider me normal.” I say “homosexual,” and mean, “abnormal, unhealthy, sinful.”

You say, “a living wage,” but mean “enough money to buy what you want.” I say “minimum wage,” and mean, “pay that’s commensurate with entry-level ability and experience.”

You say, “choice,” but mean doing away with what is inconvenient. I say, “abortion,” and mean the killing of your own baby.

It’s as if we are speaking different languages. Indeed, we are. Yours is the language of entitlement. You want, therefore you demand and expect to receive. Mine is the language of standards in which your wants, and for that matter my wants, don’t dictate what you or I get.

Your language presumes that you ought to get what you want. Mine presumes that what you – or I – may want is entirely a secondary issue, subordinate to what is just, normal and moral.

Here’s the rub. Now that you have succeeded in stripping away words’ real meaning, any apparent compromise really means that you win. Any compromise simply would be yet another perversion of the words’ original meaning. A compromise on abortion would mean some babies are killed and others not. A compromise on enforcing immigration laws would mean some criminal activity is permitted and some not. A compromise on entry level wages would mean some wages are determined by supply and demand and some not. A compromise on acceptance of homosexuality as “just another lifestyle” would mean some abnormal, unhealthy, sinful behavior is endorsed, and some not. In every case compromise precludes what is just, normal and moral, no matter how flowery you make it sound. As wise men once told us, a little a little leaven leavens the whole lump.

Words matter. Or at least they used to. But today words have become pliant to the point of meaninglessness. Why? Because if you demanded what you really wanted, you know that your demand would sound patently absurd.

You would have to demand mercy, grace and forgiveness for breaking innumerable laws, denying lawful residents jobs and depressing wages. You would have to demand the right for men to engage in anal sex with other men. You would have to demand the right to be paid more than your labor is worth. You would have to demand the right to murder your own child. None of these demands put in plain language would be popular or persuasive. That’s why you have obfuscated by redefining up as down and right as wrong.

You have made great strides in perverting the English language, reshaping it like a wax nose until words take on entirely new and utterly absurd meanings.

Once upon a time, it was understood universally that murder is the intentional, wrongful killing of a person, who would not die naturally if left alone or if medically treated. But you have changed even that. Now you demand “compassion” and “dignity” and, yes again, “choice,” in order to “mercifully” euthanize people who are not dying, but whose “quality of life” doesn’t measure up to someone’s standard.

Shame on you. At least as long as that word still has meaning.



In addition to being a Staff Writer for the New Media Alliance, Mark Landsbaum is a Christian freelance writer, member of the Evangelical Press Association, a published author and former award-winning Los Angeles Times reporter from Diamond Bar, California. In a 24-year newspaper career, his coverage resulted in arrests, prison sentences, new laws and court injunctions to halt improper government activity, and a nomination by The Times for a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting. Since leaving The Times, Landsbaum’s freelance news articles and commentary columns have been published by Concerned Women for America, Christian Examiner, Baptist News, Good News Etc., New Wineskins Magazine, Chalcedon.com, David Horowitz’s Front Page Magazine, the news portal Terra.com, the Arizona Republic and the Philadelphia Inquirer, among others.

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