Words, Words, Words

« May 2014 »

Memo to America's amateur arguers: SOME DEFINITIONS ARE ONCE AGAIN IN ORDER.

England has become superflous. America itself has become two countries separated by a common language. Over the weekend, Condoleeza Rice withdrew from her commencement speech at Rutgers after some students helpfully pointed out that, if Rice isn't a war criminal, she's at the very least war-criminal-adjacent. Some people objected to this turn of events, and in doing so, expressed an ignorance of certain terminology that borders on clinical aphasia.

These people are of course uncorrectable, but since I'm not actually trying to help things, that means I can correct them anyway. Allow me to explain certain things about certain terms.

OPEN-MINDED: Some people suggested that objecting to a Rice commencement speech showed that liberals were closed-minded, in direct opposition to the educational ideal of diversity of thought. Issues of hypocrisy aside, being open-minded doesn't mean being uncritical. It doesn't mean you can't look at a person's history of things they've said and done and decide ahead of time whether what they may have to say in the future has any value, especially in a commencement address, which isn't an academic exercise.

When someone says the sky is plaid, or that the next smoking gun might be a mushroom cloud, open-mindedness doesn't require you to pay attention to that person in the future. In a similar vein...

TOLERANCE: This is well-trod ground here, but once again, intolerance of what people are is a bad thing. Intolerance of what they say or do is a good thing. I mean, I can, will, and do disagree with the latter intolerance, but not on the grounds of it being intolerant. Just on the grounds of it being stupid and wrong.

RACISM: The last two weeks have shown a clear lack of understanding of this word, but one particular nuance still needs to be explored. Being mean to a minority is not racism. Being meaner to a minority because they're a minority is racism. Objecting to Rice speaking would only be racist if you think the Rutgers students would have been perfectly happy with Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, etc. speaking at commencement. Which is, of course, madness.

I know you get this idea from being called racists for being mean to Obama, but again, the racism comes from being slightly meaner, in certain specific ways, to Obama than you would have been to a white liberal president. Not a lot, because you're deranged as well as racist, but some. That's what makes it racist. And what makes this Rice thing not racist.

SEXIST: See "Racist".

SUPPORTED: This comes from the closest thing to a decent argument anyone put forth on this whole mess. That lots of people, including Democrats, supported the Iraq War at the time, and college students aren't trying to keep them from offering up commencement speeches.

But just like "closest to a good argument" and "close to a good argument" are two different things, "support" and what Condoleeza Rice did are two different things. Don't get me wrong. I still harbor a fair amount of resentment for the jingoistic/cowardly post-9/11 Democrats who wanted war / didn't want to pay the political cost of opposing war. I think Hillary Clinton paid a price for her complicity in the '08 primaries.

But going along with is not instigating. Fabricating intelligence, lying to the U.N., ginning up public fears of a nuclear Iraq, all these things contributed to the environment that made it much easier for politicians to support and vote for the use of force. And the people behind that should be held more accountable than the politicians who fell in line.

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