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Opinion Farewell, 2021, year of weird speaking

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At the end of 2021, a year of weird speaking, Americans learned from Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) that “student debt is policy violence.” Previously, Americans were lectured that “silence is violence” — that not voicing support for this or that supposedly oppressed group is violence against it. The proliferation of new forms of violence raises a question: Are old forms — say, a flash mob looting a Louis Vuitton store — still violence? Or is this just the vigorous articulation of intersectional consciousness against consumer culture’s commodification of everything, including commodities?

Normal people, who might want to toss anvils to progressives drowning in their jargon, should modify George Orwell’s axiom that “the great enemy of clear language is insincerity.” Today, the enemy of clarity is the scary sincerity of progressives who are politically inflamed about everything.

Two percent of Hispanics, according to a national poll cited by Politico, approve of progressives designating them Latinx. In 2021, did Blacks and Indigenous People of Color suddenly start thinking of themselves as BIPOCs? Or did advanced thinkers volunteer to do BIPOCs’ thinking for them? In Dane County, Wis., home of the hyper-progressive University of Wisconsin, the sheriff’s office announced a new “philosophy”: Persons in jail are no longer “inmates,” they are “residents” or “those within our care.”

The word “infrastructure” polls well because, in normal usage, it denotes glistening new airports and such like. So, congressional progressives decided that increased “investment” for school lunches — the word “spending” has been stricken from progressivism’s lexicon — and every other domestic purpose counts as “social infrastructure.” Including the Build Back Better bill’s provisions concerning “tree equity.” Note, however, that an Oregon high school — in progressive Portland, of course — hesitated before changing its mascot from a Trojan to an evergreen tree, which might evoke thoughts of lynchings.

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Colorado’s constitution forbids “any distinction or classification of pupils … on account of race or color,” a provision adopted in 1974, during the national recoil against segregation. Now, however, a Denver school is planning, when covid-19 permits, a “families of color playground night,” a project overseen by something not all elementary schools have: the school’s “dean of culture.”

Civil rights complaints, citing the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection of the laws, have been filed against the Denver school, and against a Downers Grove, Ill., high school for its “Students of Color Field Trip Opportunity.” An Indiana school district urged teachers to join one of 12 “affinity groups” based on race, sexual preference, etc. The group for Whites is called “Confronting White Privilege.”

In indigo-blue California, where the progressive itch to micromanage everyone’s life is unimpeded, Los Angeles restaurants are now required to fight our “extreme climate challenges” (says the new law’s sponsor) by giving plastic ketchup and mustard packets only to customers who request them. At Yale University, where an emotionally fragile undergraduate said he felt “victimized” by daylight saving time, a lecturer at the School of Medicine inflamed the sensitive when she said that during her year studying the opioid crisis in rural Ohio, she was surprised to find there an “artisanal coffee shop.” Her sensitive listeners denounced this as “dehumanizing, demeaning and classist,” and indicative of the lecturer’s “problematic” thinking. “Problematic” is progressive-speak for “justifies cancellation.”

Actor Jussie Smollett had said that when he went out for a sandwich … at 2 a.m. … in a subzero Chicago January … he encountered — such rotten luck! — two political activists shouting “this is MAGA country” … who, amazingly, on their ramble just happened to be carrying a noose … and bleach … that they doused him with … and ….

A 2021 jury of Chicagoans said: Puh-lease. We think this tale belongs on the growing list (e.g., the 2006 Duke lacrosse rape, the 2012 University of Virginia fraternity rape) of American horrors that never happened.

In April, a National Archives task force said the Archives Rotunda exemplifies “structural racism” because it “lauds wealthy White men in the nation’s founding,” thereby marginalizing BIPOCs and others. The report recommended that “trigger warnings” be attached to Archives materials to “forewarn audiences of content that may cause intense physiological and psychological symptoms.” Among the potentially harmful terms identified were “illegal alien” and “elderly.”

At a U.S. Senate hearing, the secretary of health and human services was asked why he insisted on referring to mothers as “birthing people.” He answered, “We’re trying to be precise in the language that’s used.” If, the morning after next November’s elections, Democrats wonder what went wrong, they might try talking the way sensible people do. Sensible thinking might ensue.

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