One Little Change

Wesley Messamore
Sep 27, 2011 at 5:32 PM

There is just one little change you can make to the language you use in discussing politics, history, and current events that will dramatically improve the precision of your thought, the clarity of your communication, and the effectiveness of your message. That one little change is to stop saying "we" or "America" when you really mean "Washington DC."

For example: It is inaccurate -- or at best, imprecise -- to say "We armed, trained, and funded the Taliban as a proxy against the Soviet Union during the Cold War," or "America's sanctions on Iraq have resulted in the starvation of thousands of Iraqi children."

In both instances, it would be better to say "Washington armed, trained, and funded the Taliban as a proxy against the Soviet Union during the Cold War," and "Washington's sanctions on Iraq have resulted in the starvation of thousands of Iraqi children."

The first formulation of these statements is vague and inaccurate. If someone put it that way to me, I would retort with "Oh really? We did that? I don't remember ever funding the Taliban." Clarity of thought, precise language, and meaningful assertions are so rare in political discourse, and often just a healthy dose of clarity and preciseness is all that is really needed to help someone understand an issue well enough to adopt the correct position on that issue.

Furthermore, that first formulation comes off as anti-American. Even one of liberty's most articulate defenders, Congressman Ron Paul, is guilty of making this rhetorical error, and this could certainly contribute to the charge his critics often unfairly level at him -- that Ron Paul is one of the "blame America first crowd."

But as any patriot in any age would agree -- including for certain, our Founding Fathers -- a country and its government are two separate things. Someone may love their country, but detest the actions of their government. In fact, many of the people who young liberty activists are trying to reach are very suspicious of our government in Washington and strongly disapprove of many of its actions, but unquestionably love our great nation.

To not only clarify your thoughts (to yourself and others), but take the edge off of them and make them more palatable to conservative ears with an allergy to anything that smacks of anti-Americanism, be precise when you criticise U.S. foreign policy and always name Washington as the guilty party, never America and never Americans.

Their should be in the liberty movement, a deliberate and systematic campaign to separate Washington from America as far as possible in the minds of America's people...because the two are separate. The more separate, the more other, the more alien the Washington regime can be made to seem in the mind of the average American, the more easy the libertarian's task becomes.

This is because Washington is alien to America, and its interests are wholly foreign to those of America's. If this were not so, the level of discontent with Congress and the President in national polls would not be so dramatically and consistently high. Washington has proven for a century or longer now to subvert the interests of the general welfare in favor of special interests, to usurp the rule of law in favor of the rule of power, to disrupt peace and domestic tranquility in favor of extended foreign warfare that profits the few.

As long as liberty activists conflate Washington with America by saying "America did this or that bad thing," or "We should not have enacted this or that bad policy," they will only harm their own cause as they continue to perpetuate a false association of Washington with a large group of its own victims -- the American people.

I've certainly never said every German or Russian is personally responsible for the policies of their government. In fact, in the most relevant example of the potential for such a tendency-- I have always stuck up for the people of majority-Muslim nations when Americans say things to imply that they are all personally culpable in the actions of their governments.

Wes Messamore's picture

...Our government is quite willing to hold every English, German, Russian, etc. personally responsible for a number of war-related events...

Fixed that for you.  And once that's fixed, the hypocrisy's gone.  (I'm assuming you're referring to war reparations, immigration quotas, etc.)

Bonnie Kristian's picture

Awesome! Our first case study in making the one little change. Funny what a difference it makes huh?

Wes Messamore's picture


Megan Duffield's picture

Valid point. You can also say The Pentagon, The CIA, The White House, Congress, etc. and you'll be even more precise that way and it's even better!

Wes Messamore's picture

everytime I proof read my writing I check for pronoun errors! This is very true and I hope everyone begins to change their language to make calling DC's choices "ours" a dying habit!

Megan Duffield's picture