Sunday, February 26, 2017

Faith in Action

 A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.

 ~ Psalm 91

I watched the movie Hacksaw Ridge last night. Based on the life of Desmond Doss, it's a remarkable story from many perspectives, most notably the determination of one man to stand by his principles at any cost, his inspired courage under horrifying circumstances, and the power of faith in action against terrible odds. In the midst of such towering drama, there is the underpinning of a sweet and timeless love story.

Mel Gibson directs, and as might be expected from his previous war films, the battle scenes are brutal to watch. But Hacksaw Ridge is not simply Braveheart with rifles and grenades. Doss was the first conscientious objector to win the Medal of Honor; he refused to touch a rifle. This fact alone is a departure for Gibson, who has built a career playing and directing violent action heroes. Yet there is a gritty realism in the battle scenes, a frightening sense of being on the battlefield, that Gibson's previous work does not approximate. This is a riveting historical story, and the directing does not get in the way of telling it.

Hacksaw Ridge is nominated for several Academy Awards, and tonight we'll find out if it won any of them. But awards are far beside the point. What Desmond Doss accomplished in the battle for Okinawa is nothing if not miraculous. What besides divine providence could have protected a weaponless man who stayed behind alone on a dangerous battlefield that was overrun by the enemy and risked his life to rescue more than seventy wounded soldiers? It's a rhetorical question that summarizes an outstanding movie.

Monday, February 13, 2017

What's in a Name?

"I see but one rule--to be clear."

~ Stendhal

Even for our contentious political times, there is an inordinate amount of mud-slinging going on. The heights of hysteria among the anti-Trump media and left-wingers is startling in its naked ferocity. Demonstrators hurl all manner of epithets, but it's reaching a level of incoherence that's quite stunning in its stupidity. Most notable, to me, is the incessant name-calling.

On a daily, almost minute-to-minute basis, media broadcasters, political opponents, Hollywood celebrities, academics, and lefty protestors accuse Trump of being fascist, racist, sexist, or xenophobic.

That's a ton of nasty adjectives being tossed about. Do the accusers understand what the words actually mean? Using the primary definition in Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, let's take a look at these favorites:
1. Fascism: a political philosophy, movement, or regime that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.
But President Trump celebrates the individual, especially small business owners. He has already started to reduce governmental burdens upon them by decreasing regulations. As for suppressing opposition, he's largely ignoring it. I don't see the criminals from the Berkeley riots being rounded up and thrown into prison camps. The real fascists are the protestors burning cars, breaking windows, injuring people, and attacking anyone who disagrees with them. Now, there's "social regimentation" for you.
2. Racism: a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.
I have known very few people in my lifetime that fit this description, which is surprising considering the everyday prevalence of this slur. I don't believe the president is a "racist" in the definitive sense of the word. Today, anyone with a differing viewpoint is promptly labeled "a racist." It's become a one-size-fits-all insult, to the point that the term "racist" is now essentially meaningless. That is too bad, because it's an important concept that should be clearly understood in its ugly, evil entirety.
3. Sexism: prejudice or discrimination based on sex; esp.: discrimination against women.
You would have a hard time proving this one by President Trump's UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, Secretary of Education Betty DeVos, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, and first female winning presidential campaign manager and now Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway. Not to mention his respectful closeness with his daughter and advisor, Ivanka.
4. Xenophobia: fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign.
If President Trump were xenophobic, he wouldn't have built worldwide business relationships with countries spanning the globe from Indonesia to Mumbai, from the Philippines to the Dominican Republic. What he does fear and hate is terrorist attacks on our country. It is a stubborn fact that the active terrorists most intensely focused on killing us are radical Islamists. Yes, he hates that. If that makes him xenophobic, I guess I am, too. So are most Americans. That's why Trump's president now.

Reasonable adults can differ without being insulting to one another. Meaningful debate requires a knowledge of the facts, emotional maturity, and solid critical thinking skills. Highly recommended, too, is a close relationship with a good dictionary.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Easy for You to Say

I suppose many of us have been following the endless explosion of news over the past few weeks. Aside from becoming weary of the media's mass hysteria and the ongoing spitting matches between "journalists" and the new president, I've heard enough bad grammar and inaccurate word usage that I'm surprised my teeth aren't ground down to stubs.

Below is my list of the "Top Ten Clangers" heard and seen in video, audio, and print:

1.  "Take a listen" 
What does this mean? How do you "take" listening? You don't! You just "Listen." If you're inviting others to join you, maybe say "Let's listen." But listening can't be taken.

2.   "Pundint"
It's "pundit," only one "n"--even many of the pundits say "pundint," proving they don't even know what they are (which is not surprising).

3.  "Waiting on"
This is increasingly used instead of "waiting for." Tables in a restaurant are "waited on." Customers in line are "waited on." If you're waiting for someone to arrive, or if you're waiting to watch a news clip, you are "waiting for" the person or thing.

4. "Old adage"
An "adage" is an old, time-honored saying that has entered general usage in the language. It is, by definition, old. When you say "old adage," you're saying "old old saying." I'm too old to waste that much time double-speaking.

5.  "Then" vs. "Than"
I see this more often now, also. "Better then," instead of "better than." It occurs in print often enough that I know it's not a typo; the writers really don't know the difference. Neither do the editors, which is more sad than amusing.

6. "Acrost"
I hear this more often than I see it, so maybe it's a verbal tick the speaker picked up in childhood due to regional pronunciations. But if you're working in media, you should know that the word is spelled and pronounced "across."

7.  "Expecially"
Yes, I often hear this from the same speakers that say "acrost." I know they mean "especially," but shouldn't they learn how to say it correctly? Especially if they are broadcasting?

8.  "Ek-cetera"
From the Latin "et," which means "and," and "cetera," meaning "the others," there is no "K" sound anywhere in this common term. The familiar abbreviation is "etc."--not "ekc."--so I do not understand the insistence on "ek" upfront.

9.  "Nuc-U-lar"
This one makes me crazy. There is only one "U" in "nuclear"! Try it this way: say "new"--good, stop! Now immediately say "clear"--New + Clear = Nuclear. Easy!

10. "It's" vs. "Its"
This is my all-time pet peeve in print. "It's" is a contraction of "it is"--it is NOT the possessive form of "it." "Its"--no apostrophe!--is its own word and is the possessive form of "it."