Funny You Should Say That! Casualties of War
Homage to wounded words.
By John Cadley
Now that the political wars are over, let us stand by the roadside and pay homage to the walking wounded – not the beaten candidates, but the beaten words, the ones so battered by misuse, abuse and loose use they may never regain their former meaning.
Here they come now, a slow, grim column of hollow-eyed, exhausted verbiage. At the front is the word change...being carried on a stretcher. Oh, the horror! With its “c” hanging down, its “e” twisted sideways, and its “g” all bruised and broken, this once proud English word of French derivation now looks like a Chinese typographical error.
Change! In Barack Obama’s mouth it meant one thing, in John McCain’s another. It was something to believe in, something we need, something that was coming, something that was here. McCain represented no change at all. Obama represented the wrong kind of change. Obama said he would change Washington. McCain said Washington would change Obama. And Sarah Palin said she had to change her baby.
Now change stares vacantly into the middle distance, confused, disoriented, wondering if what it really means is...no change at all.
Straggling close behind is the word experience – on crutches. It was drafted at the very beginning of the Hillary-Obama skirmishes, saw heavy fighting in the McCain-Romney campaigns, and was seriously wounded in the brutal blitz kriegs of the McCain-Obama wars.
Experience was a good thing, meaning mature, seasoned, prepared. Experience was a bad thing, meaning inbred, hidebound, co-opted. Experience enables informed decisions. Experience kills fresh thinking. Experience means you’ve got the right background. Experience means you’ve got the wrong baggage.
And now we see the shattered result. The “x” has been blown away completely, and the “n” has somehow fallen into its place. The “p” is now turned head over heels into a “d” and the “c” has been knocked sideways into a “u” – so that the first five letters spell “endur,” suggesting endurance – i.e., the candidate who pushes the electorate beyond all endurance with his or her gaseous bloviation will win just so the voters can shut him or her up.
Coming up next – oh, the wretched sight! – is the word care bandaged like a mummy. Caught in a hellacious crossfire between McCain and Obama, it now limps gingerly back to the dictionary, a shell of its former self. For in the political wars, the rules of engagement are such that to say “I care” about an issue is to automatically and incontrovertibly preclude your opponent from caring about the same issue. When McCain said he cared about Social Security, Obama by definition did not – could not – care about it. When Obama said he cared about education, he implied that McCain favored a nation of high school dropouts. And so it went. When the big issues like taxes and foreign policy were taken, they went after the smaller ones. Every morning the campaign staffs held Caring Target Meetings to identify what the candidate would express deep concern about that day.
It all came to a head in Sandusky, Ohio, when Barack Obama – informed that the local YMCA needed a coat of paint – eloquently proclaimed that seeing a newly-painted YMCA was the main reason he got into politics. When John McCain rolled into town and said he cared about the same thing, embarrassed town officials had to explain why that would be a technical impossibility. Instead, they offered him an underfunded 4H project and a spot on the local news to express his deep and abiding commitment to livestock.
And while this poor linguistic foot soldier was crisscrossing the battlefield trying to fulfill these conflicting commands, it was assaulted from yet a third quarter by the candidates’ statements on their complete and total lack of care – for what the other candidate said, for what the media said, for what the polls said, and for what David Letterman said.
It was at this point that care fell to its knees with a white flag.
But wait! What is this bringing up the rear? A word that appears to have escaped the carnage altogether.
“Wait! Stop! What word are you?”
“How have you escaped without a scratch?”
“I was never called to fight. They told me the war was about John McCain’s temper and Barack Obama’s middle name and Joe Biden’s hair plugs and Sarah Palin’s lipstick. It happens in every political war. I volunteer and they classify me as unfit for duty. I’ve had enough. I’m applying for a new status.”
John Cadley is an advertising copywriter in Syracuse, New York. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.