Words, words, words……

I sent this to the Rockwall Herald Banner. They did not print it, so I am free to use it here. My father’s studies were interrupted by WWII. His house was partially demolished by a V-2 bomb. He started at the lowest rung of city governance and got to the top through hard work. Most of our civil servants, although they are as free as anyone to have their private opinions, are scrupulously non-partisan in their work. They form the backbone of the state and provide the kind of stability that would be severely lacking if every office was held by political appointees. Here is the text I sent.

 

 

“He mobilized the English language, and sent it into battle.” So says Viscount Halifax of Winston Churchill at the conclusion of the very compelling movie “Darkest Hour”.

 

I have the deepest respect for words. They have the power to uplift or humiliate, oppress or inspire. Pictures may elicit emotional reactions, but words are the most effective tool in the arsenal we use to present ourselves to the outside world.

 

We need words to form thoughts. Writers know this. So do marketers of all kinds. Before my husband and I bought our first house, I objected to the rumble of the nearby highway. “Think of it as the surf pounding the shore”, said the realtor. SOLD.

 

The importance of language, and more particularly of repeating the same words, is not lost on politicians either. In a campaign announcement printed in your January 5th edition, Bob Hall used the word “conservative” 13 times, “grassroots” 4 times, and “strong” 3 times. The messaging works. We now automatically associate “Bob Hall” with “conservative”.

 

Repeated words, or even a particularly successful turn of phrase, sink like sediment in our minds and color our thoughts – which brings me to my main point. Increasingly, the president and his advisers use “deep state” to describe career civil servants. Federal workers are described as “faceless bureaucrats” who plot in the shadows to damage the Trump presidency. In fact, federal workers start their careers under presidents of either party and, unless they prove incompetent, continue under whoever is elected afterwards. They may be Democrats or Republicans, and they work together. They provide the stability that good governance requires. Thoughtlessly depleting federal agencies in the name of economy is a mistake. Replacing career employees with political appointees who may be loyal to the president but have little or no experience compounds that mistake.

 

President Trump, who sprinkles his tweets with the words “deep state”, has shown worrisome isolationist tendencies. If the United States is to remain a global superpower, it cannot disengage from the international community. Oftentimes it seems as if President Trump’s sole political motivation is to destroy the legacy of his predecessor. The State Department has been decimated under Rex Tillerson. This is where seasoned professionals could provide invaluable advice based on facts that political appointees may not be aware of. Zigzagging all over the ideological map, rescinding treaties, making policy through tweets all diminish our stature. We need stability in our international policy, our economic policy, our immigration policy. Members of the Trump administration need to take a deep breath and rely on the experience and, hopefully, wisdom of people who have worked at their job for more than a few months. And we must push back against conspiracy theories and use of the words “deep state”. They remind me of the anti-communist rhetoric of the McCarthy years. They reek of manipulation aimed at consolidating power in the presidency. We know better.

 

Marie-Anne occasionally thinks she knows it all, and relies on friends and family to keep her ego in check. Any mistake is unintentional and her own responsibility entirely.

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