Practice Being Accurate

If you’re here, you are a writer, and you pay attention to words.  Here are some vague terms that are constantly thrown around, and as a writer, I’m increasingly annoyed.  Here are my attempts at suggesting clarification.  Please feel free to add your own phrases and interpretations.

The Establishment:  This description is as insulting as “you people.”  It could mean anything from the local County Supervisors and your local library staff, to the House of Representatives, all lobbyists (from gun rights supporters to environmental activists) to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  Time to define our terms and find exactly the right words to capture what we mean.

Elites:  Who are they? Are they people in power like a county supervisor or the sheriff?  Do all elites live on the east coast or are they also rich movie stars?  Do you get to be one if you are educated?  Is the head of a union an elite? Does it mean you’re a boss?  Are you an elite if you supervise six people who run popcorn, funnel cake, and cotton candy stands at the local county fair?  Another meaningless term.

“I read somewhere that people are saying….”  Let’s all agree, once and for all, that the phrases, “people are saying” or “they say” do not represent credible sources.  These phrases mean nothing since somewhere people are also saying that the earth is flat.  One more logical fallacy.

Globalization:  This sounds like a tidal wave that will engulf us all.  But what is it really?  Is it a secret plot against people who hold low wage jobs in America?  Is it something “the elite” and “the establishment” are conning us with so they can get richer?  Is it here to stay or can we destroy it with a suicide vest?  Perhaps it is the logical result of the technology that increasingly links us all at the speed of light.  Perhaps it’s the result of better nutrition, cleaner water, and more available medical care across the globe.  A bad thing?  Something to accept or vilify?

Wall Street: Another vague generalization.  Does this term include only the people that work there or perhaps anyone who has a 401K?  If I work on Wall Street, invest in stocks, or live nearby, am I evil?  Where does Wall Street begin and Main Street end?  Sure wish the media would stop using vague terms.

Main Street:  My mental image of Main Street is very Midwestern U.S.  There are the late 1800’s storefronts, refurbished to bring in new shops, many of whom go out to business in six months.  The competition is rough out there because of malls and places with huge parking lots.  But somehow, Main Street never seems to evoke manufacturing or farming.  So misleading.  I know many farmers, but they don’t ever think of themselves as Main Street.

Immigration:  Another term that has become over generalized so that demagogues can use it to scare people and get attention.  Some questions that might add clarity are:  Are there “good” immigrants and “bad” immigrants?  Like my friend from India who came over in 1985, went through all the bureaucratic steps, and become a citizen–is he now a bad guy?  Is the country of origin a rule-out?  (Syria, Mexico, or any country with darker skins?) If all the immigrants were from Great Britain, Germany, and France, would this be an issue?  If we all agree that prejudice against our immigrant grandparents was unfair, how did immigration somehow become bad?

Polarizing:  How easy it is to get angry and fight.  How we love our own anger (“I feel it so strongly, it must be right!”).  How soothing it is to find someone to blame for any injustice done to us (whether by family member, government, or some suspect ethnic group).  How comfy and self-satisfying it feels to identify with “us” and suspect “them.”  What is much more difficult is to pause and consider how much we are alike, how those people who are somehow “them” are also struggling to make it through adolescence/young adulthood, raise families, or deal with aging parents.   We’re all struggling to find meaningful work, a place to have shelter, cook whatever we can find, and protect our loved ones from all problems.  Coming together is hard; fighting is way too easy.


13 responses to “Practice Being Accurate

  1. Sandra Degrow (Sandrella)

    I hate the phrase, “I was like…” The infinitive “to be” is misused here. It makes no sense when used with “like”. Is the person expressing this sentiment trying to say, “I was surprised, confounded, or even miffed?” Where I have heard people say “I was like” was usually after something disgusting,overwhelming or surprising was done by another person, or that person said something outrageous. Try this for a scenario:
    Laura stood straight with her feet shoulder-width apart on the train platform. In her hands, Laura clenched her silver revolver and said, “Paul, don’t take one more step off of that train,”
    “Laura, put down that revolver, please” he said, as sweat poured down his face. “I can explain.”
    Laura did something scary and Paul responded with great emotion. Paul did not say, “I was like”, which would have made no sense at all.

  2. Amen to that one! I think you have to say “I was like…” with a southern California girl accent too. “I was like euwww!” with a pursed mouth. Good to hear from you, Sandrella!

  3. I read somewhere that people are saying that Lady Ann Linquist has become one of the top Elites in a highly regarded Establishment in New York,New York. Her perceptive views on Immigration and Globalization caused a clan of clean Southern Belles to become quite Polarized. The astounding suggestion that Lady Linquist posted to the mass of Middle-aged dolls with their Botox foreheads and Play Dough Boobs was that their annual fundraiser should be to produce a show of ” Naked and Afraid” on Wall Street…No Food,,,No Clothes,,,No Water,,,and especially brutal…No Smart Phones The contestants must survive solely on.their hunting and fishing skills, on 42rd Street Or the skill to flirt their way into a dry martini and a medium well done Filet Mignon at a fancy eatery on the upper East side. If she manages to conjour up such a challenging activity, I will anxiously leave my safe little hut on Main Street in Mid America and run to Lady Linquist;s side and beg her to let me compete. I have a really boffo audition routine. Naked Tap Dancing to the haunting sounds of Naked Accordion. Think about it Ann and let me know if I should start to pack and reserve bus tickets !

    • I like the idea of No Food, No Clothes, No Water, No Phones. It reminds me of the time a senator and his family tried to live for three months on a welfare check. Wake up call! Who knows what skills will emerge? I’m still trying to picture a naked accordion. Perhaps we should stand on a street corner and sing for change. I’ll bring my ukulele and my tap shoes.

      • Was it you that I saw perform at the Annual Shinbone County Montana NUKE THE UKE FESTIVAL ? You did a stunning rendition of ” Mammas Don;t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Creative Writing Instructors” followed by an encore of Tiny Bubbles in my Nose. I truly believe we could make it big with Uke,Accordion,Tap and Song. At very least we could scare people.

  4. This is a lot of fun, peanutberanski. Great image of you tap dancing on Wall St. 🙂

  5. My current pet peeve is “I mean, blah blah blah.” It’s a crutch, much like “umm. er, like” etc. If you mean it, say it. We get that. Don’t tell us you mean it, we can infer that.

  6. just popped in and enjoyed your rant

    • Gullie, How about people ending every sentence with, “You know what I mean?” It’s as if they refuse to be clear and then make you guess what they just said.

    • Jack,
      Good to hear from you! How was the reunion? Any surprises?

  7. reunion:hotter than hell,had fun with my buddies,except that they all play golf,big shot not there(must be busy),i think i should stay in the great white north. enjoy your summer

  8. Actually, right now I am tired of hearing “The American people want…” I’m an American person, and I don’t agree with much of what the executive branch says I want. I don’t want the mentally ill to buy guns, I don’t want polluted streams and air, I don’t want bans on immigrants…need I go on?

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