by Elizabeth T. Andrews
American Reporter Correspondent
June 10, 2008
GO AHEAD AND VENT, SWEETIE
CARTERSVILLE, Ga. -- A Yankee feminist asked me once not to call her "dear." Said "honey child" and "Hey, sweetheart!" were not words she cared to hear. Said Southern women's silly ways demeaned today's lifestyle of strong women everywhere who do not fetch or file. Said simpering was a Scarlett thing and so were "sir" and "ma'am" and no free woman hesitates to sound a Rhett-ish "Damn!" Said language is a powerful tool of who we are these days and Southern women ought to stop their childish cute-girl ways.
I closed my mouth and Southern ears and calmly walked away and left her to her "damns" and things and whatever "free" gals say. But I couldn't help my Southern urge to leave upon her ears the strains of "I wish I was in Dixie... ."
It's long been a Southern thang, and recently it became a Barack Obama thing.
Presidential candidate Obama had a Freudian moment a few weeks ago and called a female reporter "Sweetie." The sirens went off in the halls of the feminists and all word-hell broke loose. Sigh.
As though any word has the power to wound. As though the receiver of the word has no control over how they react to the word. As though we are puppets of words to be jerked about all day every day in a world that would be luster-less and silent if there were no words.
Recently a friend of mine was going through a bad patch with a friend of his. The situation moved my friend from trying to hang on to his Southern gentleman's ways to a verbal outburst that almost scorched my morning glories. I went from surprise to the sheer delight at witnessing what someone really feels when the social mask drops and a genuine person emerges.
What's that you say, Elizabeth? We should all run around cursing the way the wind blows and the price of gasoline at the pumps? Should I blurt out how stupid I think you are with your "word-bridges" and your constant bitching about everything from why do hummingbirds fly backwards to your ceaseless harping about spiritual equality for women?
Well, maybe. Maybe not.
Words are my world and that world is made less by our public determination that everybody should qualify for political and social correctness by never, never uttering what we really think or feel.
Take the former White House press secretary, Scott McClellan. In his whistle-blowing book "What Happened," I don't know if McClellan said what he believed to be true, what he knew to be true, or if he is a stranger to truth in general and allergic to any personal truth stored in his I-once-was-somebody brain. I do know he waited until he was shuffled out of the ranks of those who fancy themselves above truth ... which makes anything he has to say suspect.
Politicians' words of "truth" are laid out for us by repetitious glib guile disguised as honesty. All Democrats are going to heaven. (Including the pedophiles and alcoholics?) All Republicans get to drive the heaven-bound buses and say who can ride. (Including those with DWIs and driving records that border on criminal?) I am a better candidate than those other people and if I can lie long enough and loud enough you'll vote for me. (Probably not.)
My point is we are sugar-fed nice-sounding phrases and glossy words by politicians who wouldn't know the truth if they found it floating in their commode. And they do it because the general populace covers its ears against any rhetoric that is not laced with lies so pleasing they draw flies to feed on the honeyed words.
And then along comes a Rev. Jeremiah Wright and that other fruit-loop, Father something, who dared say what they really think and feel and ... Saints preserve us! Off with their heads!
Shouldn't we all be allowed to make fools of ourselves? Shouldn't a truth be allowed to come home to roost occasionally without being condemned and devoured by the rattlesnakes in the henhouse? Can any word-truth really wound? If apologies are demanded every time somebody dares say what they really think how are we to find any word-truth raft in a cesspool of pleasing platitudes?
Be sure your sins will find you out, wrote somebody smarter than me, and because I dislike that guilt-inducing word "sins," I've modified that line ever so slightly: Be sure our freely spoken words will "find us out" ... if we're allowed to speak them.
What is this thing, this all-American thing, of a citizen's disease of daintiness where no word is allowed save properly pitched, placating phrases that fall pleasantly on the ears?
Perhaps it it because I am in the opinion business that I find the public dislike of a Hillary opinion or an Obama opinion or a McCain opinion so perplexing. By their opinions we shall know them - if we don't demand they roll them in powdered sugar.
Obama's spiritual guide for 20 years, the ridiculous Rev. Wright, was expressing opinions he believed to be true. He has that right. Take away his right and throw in your own, for if a Rev. Wright is muzzled today then tomorrow you and I will be required to be silent or lie convincingly.
Years ago, living smack in the middle of the Ku Klux Klan's then-national headquarters in Murfreesboro, Tenn., I found myself in the uncomfortable position of defending that nefarious group's right to march down the streets of our town. The qualifier was, of course, that it be peaceful.
I dusted off my keyboard and opened my defense column with "What is white on the outside, yellow on the inside, wears a dunce cap, and slobbers at the sight of a burning cross?" I injected the idea that on the day of their asinine march we all leave town, go to the park grounds and hold a picnic. An insult is not an insult unless there is somebody who hangs around and chooses to be insulted.
Words. Freedom to express any opinion whether I - or you - agree with it or not.
Words. None is offensive except to the ears listening for offense.
Words. The Declaration of Independence would today, no doubt, insult every Muslim terrorist crawling around in the bushes waiting to kill a bunch of somebodies because they won't mutter the paper words of Mohammad, the alleged author of the Koran.
Yes, I defend the Yankee feminist's right to express her opinion about my everyday language. It held no sway over me for I am not defined by her idea of how I should - and should not - speak.
Yes, I agree. The word "God" is more pleasing than the word "Satan." But both are just words, neither pleasing or ugly, and their merit is determined entirely by the ears that hear ... and the voice that chooses to beautify ... or deem ugly a few letters comprising a simple word.
Where truth cannot be spoken, hypocrisy gives birth to twins. And although I like to believe most of us are capable of dissecting what we hear, discarding what we don't need, and accepting what rings true to us perhaps I am but dreaming of what "free speech" ought to mean instead of accepting that most people don't want to hear anything that doesn't fit their opinion of what's right or what's not right.
If we charge forth with righteous indignation over the mutterings of a Rev. Wright, a Grand Wizard, or the devout keepers of the Koran who practice their beliefs in peace, do we not lower ourselves to that slimy edge of stupidity where dangles those who believe they are the only speakers of what is right, proper, godly, acceptable ... and true?
I have no intention of erasing "sweetie," "honey-child" or "dear" from my victimless vocabulary. I am Southern down to the cornbread I cook in my cast-iron skillet and my words have absolutely no power to wound anyone as long as they aren't deliberate lies about individuals.
As for that Yankee feminist, I think I'll just stock up on ear plugs and hand her some if she squirms when I ask "One lump or two, Sweetie?"
Elizabeth T. Andrews is a newspaper columnist now living in Cartersville, Ga. Her own Website, www.treefamilyfoundation.com, contains other columns and poetry by her. She can be contacted at email@example.com, or P.O. Box 816, Cartersville, GA 30120.