Snowflakes and Babies, Language and Politics

I am tired, really tired, mortally tired, of seeing/hearing politically minded people – on both sides of whatever issue – calling each other snowflakes and babies. (Other playgroundish names, too, but those are the ones that seem to be used the most.)

We have Photoshopped memes of student protestors filing out of an event with pacifiers in their mouths. We see posts proclaiming the opposition as “special snowflakes” who have been hurt (or butt-hurt) in the “fee-fees.” And on and on.

We are talking about serious issues and positions, and, if not the best thing, the most common thing we do is call names.

If we talk about something as serious as impeaching the President, should we call him a Cheeto? Or refuse to mention his name? Or call his supporters Trumpkins? I had a friend who hated President Obama and all his works fiercely. Still, when she ranted about him, she always addressed him as “Mr. Obama.” When I asked her why, she replied, “My mama raised me right.”

And make no mistake, we are discussing ultra-serious topics here:

Is health care a right or a privilege or an obligation? And in any case, who should pay for it?

How can (or should) people protest an action or opinion they don’t agree with? At all? In silence? Without disrupting normal activities? Mail postcards?

What does the Constitution say about any given issue? What did it mean to the people who wrote it and what does it mean now?

What treatment and/or rights do the mentally ill, the developmentally disabled, special needs kids deserve?

What training and powers should the police have? Do they still protect and serve?

What is (or should be) the role of journalists today?

Who are heroes? What do they do to qualify as such?

Does everyone deserve a living wage? What should the minimum be? Who deserves more pay than the minimum? How do we decide?

When does life begin?

Pick one. Any one. I’ll bet you can’t get through a discussion without calling or being called something unpleasant, in real life, and certainly not on social media. There are at least two – usually more – sides to all of these questions, but no one wants to hear, much less consider, an answer other than their own. And one of the “best” ways to demonize the other side is to dehumanize them. They are snowflakes. They are thugs. They are babies. They are pond scum. They are whiners.

That’s a road we don’t want to go down. That way lies madness, and worse.

Author and blogger Steven Brust (www.dreamcafe.com) addressed the issue of labeling in a recent post on Facebook:

I do not use the term Social Justice Warrior, because it … reads to me as disrespectful. Same with Libtard, or Identiterian, or Clintonista, or Berniebro. These all refer to ideological positions with which, while I often agree on the problems we face, I differ strongly on causes and methods of struggle. My disagreements are too profound to be trivialized by name-calling, and my passion runs too deep to be satisfied by insults.

I  have to say that I  disagree with Mr. Brust on many of his opinions (as I’m sure he disagrees with mine), but I think he is right on this.

While people may disagree on the functional definitions of words such as “patriot” and “Christian,” we all agree that “special kind of stupid” is an insult. What I’m saying is not “Wait and and see” or “I will never listen to them” or “I’m tired of being asked to understand their problems” or “All X are Y.” I’m not asking everyone to use their indoor voices and be polite.

I am making a plea that we all remember we are all human beings and that we treat each other the way we want to be treated. Without saying, “But they started it.” Or “they don’t deserve respect because X.”

You can choose whether to listen to or ignore another person’s point of view. You can work to defeat actions you find abhorrent. Hell, you can try to change society if you want to. In fact, I think we should.

I would recommend starting by considering how we talk to one another and whether that will help or hinder the fulfillment of our goals.

Other quasi-political posts I have written include:

Political Noise (http://wp.me/p4e9wS-ol)

Crashing Political Parties (http://wp.me/p4e9wS-se)

The Never-Ending Election (http://wp.me/p4e9wS-qv)

Make America Great Again: What Does It Mean? (http://wp.me/p4e9wS-o2)

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6 thoughts on “Snowflakes and Babies, Language and Politics

  1. I’m searching for the applause button. I teach argument and my students and I wonder at how our public discussions have disintegrated over the the last decade. Of course, I blame social media for (almost) everything. 😬😊🤔

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  2. What a thoughtful and rational point of view. Of course, the majority of what we see will never heed such words.

    There is a reason why people refuse to use the president’s name, however (this only applies to refusing to use his name or title; it doesn’t apply to calling him a Cheeto). It is to take away his power. The president isn’t a normal person; he is a person in a great position of power. When he behaves in ways which are disrespectful to the people, the people should not be required to be respectful in return. By refusing to acknowledge his power, in this case by refusing to acknowledge him, it is a way to strip his (possibly undeserved) power from him, just a little bit. It’s not because people are impolite or “their mamas didn’t raise them right” or whatever–it is an actual form of political resistance, of peaceful protest. Not everyone can go to rallies or marches or can donate money. Some of us only have our words, or in this case, our lack thereof.

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    • You are absolutely right that words have power, and so does withholding them. But I keep thinking of Harry Potter and He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. In much folklore, to call a thing or person by its name takes away its power (think: Rumpelstiltskin). As forms of protest go, refusing to use Trump’s name is certainly valid, but it leaves the problem of what to call him instead. President? 45? POTUS? How do you fill in the sentence, “Did you hear what _______ did today?” Or do we simply not speak of him at all? He is, after all, impossible to ignore, which would be abandoning protest. I would love to hear more from you about what you do call him and what you think.

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      • The difference between Voldemort and the president is that people didn’t say Voldemort’s name out of fear of him, fear that he could somehow sense people speaking of him. As the president isn’t a wizard, so people aren’t afraid to say his name and his power doesn’t grow when people don’t say his name. His power is acknowledged when people refer to him by his title and/or name.

        Of course, as you point out, it is almost impossible to not speak about the president’s actions, but I disagree that it’s “abandoning” protest by not talking about what he does. There are many types of protest and a person doesn’t have to talk about the president’s actions to be informed of them and counter them. For example, I didn’t have to speak about how “the president wants to build a wall at the border” to say, “building a wall around the border is an awful idea for more reasons than I can fit in this comment.”

        As for what to call him when we do speak about him directly, that’s up to the individual. From my observation, people will either say “the president” or just “Trump” (or maybe “Donald Trump”). The goal isn’t to refuse to acknowledge him as a person, but to separate Donald Trump the man from the position of power of the President of the United States. Some people I’ve spoken to don’t think he is acting like a president to all people, and so make sure not to say “our president” or “the US President” but just “the president” (or I know a couple who say “their president,” referring to those people he is being a president to–I don’t do this because I find it confusing). If you’re curious about what I call him personally, if I’m writing online I’ll use “the president,” but if I’m talking to people I’ll just say “Trump.” I speak a lot more casually than I write and saying “the president” tends to just sound weird when I speak.

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