Language


I’ve edited some of the information, but this is the essence of an Associated Press story out of Paris and the genesis of this post.

“PARIS (AP) — Only one native speaker of Livonian remains on Earth, in Latvia. The Alaskan language Eyak went extinct last year when its last surviving speaker passed away.
Those are just two of the nearly 2,500 languages that UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, says are in danger of becoming extinct or have recently disappeared. That’s out of a total of 6,000 world languages.
A new language atlas says 200 languages have become extinct in the last three generations, and another 199 languages have fewer than 10 speakers left.”

I am saddened that languages are either becoming or are now extinct. In order to understand our collective cultural future, we must have knowledge of our linguistic past and when a language becomes extinct so does the nuance of its specific history.

But then again, I am saddened too that the English language we use today in every day communication has become so perverted that at times I cannot understand what someone is saying to me. No wonder they say, “you know what I’m sayin’” in every other sentence.

Ask nearly any student, high school or college, to diagram the parts of speech or describe a simple declarative sentence and you will get a blank look.

What happened?

We have dumbed down the elegance of speech into prattle where grunts, syllable elimination and a rhythmic beat seemingly convey a quasi-poetic ablution of how one feels.

Language is the grace of a society. It is the elegance of sophisticated communication and clear conversation. It is the archive of great literature. It is the essence of understanding and the language of peace, creativity and harmony.

We need precise language. We need people who love it, embrace it, share it with eloquence and who will not abandoned it to colloquial poppycock.

Offensive Cartoon?


It is not often that I agree with The Reverend Al Sharpton. My memory of his actions and rhetoric go back to the Twanna Brawley scandal, which still taint his actions and pronouncements to this day.

But I do agree with him partially in his criticism of the New York Post newspaper and it’s editorial cartoon that either directly or inadvertently led to an interpretation that a Chimpanzee could be equated with President Obama.

The cartoon reeked with symbolism well beyond what was probably intended by the cartoonist. Hopefully that was the case. Somebody at the Post didn’t look at all the possible meanings and the offense it might cause.

I don’t agree with Sharpton that the cartoonist and the editors should be punished. Just bringing insensitivity to light is enough in this case.

For the record I thought the cartoon cover on the New Yorker Magazine several months ago showing Obama wearing an Islamic robe and turban while Michelle Obama is shown in military fatigues with a Kalashnikov on her back was also in poor taste and subliminally racist.

Also yesterday Eric Holder, the nation’s first black US attorney general, said Americans “simply do not talk enough with each other about race and he called us a “nation of cowards”.

I think his choice of words was inappropriate. I think we are a nation of many closet racists and they are the cowards who refused to confront their bigotry and prejudice, but we are also a nation, a majority of sensitive souls, who just want to get along without offending the hypersensitive of any race, culture, religion or gender.

Prejudice is inherently abhorrent to the human spirit because deep within we know the miracle of life is in its oneness, not in its diversity.

Prejudice and its aliases of racism and bigotry can disguise itself in the illusion that one is better than another. It can hide in the way we say words to describe others, Mexican, Gringo, Jew, Black, and even in non-personal words like immigrant and foreigner and the slang terms of rag-head, gook, sloap, honkey and Heb.

Prejudice can also manifest in rules and regulations, and in walls and fences, real and imaginary. A comfortable commonality for all people is found in the open front yards of our hearts, not in the cemented courts of intolerance however the ego builds them.

We must remember that prejudice grows from many seeds; statements without truth, judgments without justice, belief without compassion, conversation without courtesy and even cartoons without thought.

Congress


There was an anonymous comment on my post from yesterday about Roland Burris.

Here’s what it said: “Yes, let’s throw them all out. But, who will replace them? Will you run?”

I grant you that what I’d like to do and what one can do is separated by a practical chasm of resistance. The future has always been preceded by a vision of what it can be.

Yes, I would run, but for only one term and even before that I would suggest the country amend the terms of congress and the Presidency, which would eliminate the cost of continuous campaigns, do away with the seniority system, prevent politicians from making a career out of government, encourage true public service and lessen the need for government pork to insure reelection.

House of Representatives: One four year term.

Senate: One seven year term.

Presidency: One eight year term.

I would also do away with the Electoral College. It is archaic and its usefulness is suspect. In its place we can develop a secure electronic national voting system that can also be compartmentalized and used for local and state elections.

I would also encourage the development of a third party. There are too often issues that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans want to address or even embrace as part of their platform. A third party would at least give voice to those issues and the changing mores of our global society.

For all those elected and entrusted with our collective futures I would expect fairness, courtesy, transparency, and honesty.

Roland Burris


Mr. Burris of Illinois you are not my Senator and other than wanting to see purity, integrity and ethical standards returned to a Congress that lacks them, I have no regional status to ask you to stand down.

Having said that, “integrity” is an important quality that Americans claim to uphold, but few demand of their elected officials.

I will stand up and say I demand honesty from not only my representatives, but also all representatives in this and future congresses. Mr. Burris you are a smart man and have good intentions, but you cannot parse the law.

For too long Congress has been an elitist club and as a citizen I want it to stop. These are tough global times and we need honest people in high positions. You, who are elected and reelected, are not there for your personal aggrandizement, but to serve me and my fellow citizens no matter where we live. If you cannot act for the common good and common sense with common decency and transparent honesty then ethically you must resign.

In fact, I am ready to see every elected representative in both the House and Senate replaced with new people of integrity, ethics, common sense, and a personal dedication to service for the greater good rather than the partisan good. New standards must be set for the old ones are corrupt.

I am tired of the bickering, and the accusations of politics and I want courtesy, diplomacy, fairness and statesmanship returned to my Congress.

For too long all of you in senior positions have enjoyed the largess of the American People and it is time to stop. It is time for accountability. Seniority should no longer guarantee power.
Let us start with the tax returns of every member of Congress examined with the same criteria that common citizens tax returns are examined and because Congress supposedly serve the public, the returns should be a public record.

Mr. Burris, you claim you did not commit perjury in your testimony to the Blagojevich impeachment committee. Yet, there are many shaded answers or non-answers that you gave and in your amended testimony you give the appearance of political skulduggery. You are a lawyer.

Why should I think differently?