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  • Writer's pictureAl DuPree

Missing Words ...

It’s no secret: we are a nation divided. There’s lots of partisan rancor making the rounds. And there are some extremes on display that we haven’t seen in quite some time.

I think that part of the problem here is that in all the sloganeering, all the hash tagging that we’ve got going that the writers are not taking the time to be precise with language. This is, after all, the age of Twitter. An age which favors brevity over precision. And that lack of precision is leading to misunderstanding.

Let me give you an example: Black Lives Matter.

There are tons of objections to this phrase. Most of which revolve around the idea that ALL lives matter (not just black lives). Thus we have new variations on this phrase like ‘Blue Lives Matter’. This phrase intended to convey that police officers are just as worthy of our concern for their well being.

The problem here lies with the precision of the original. Black Lives Matter was intended to convey (if I may be so presumptuous) the idea that there was less concern over the deaths of unarmed black people at the hands of police than for pretty much any other group of folks. So the more precise phrase would have been Black Lives Matter TOO (intending to make them equal to the lives of others and therefore worthy of our outrage when they are taken needlessly or carelessly or I dare say cavalierly).

The same can be said for another phrase making the rounds: Make America Great Again. Coined by Reagan in the 80’s and brought back by our current president this phrase is likely to raise the ire of those on the left (who object to just about everything he says). But again, there’s a missing word. That word is MY. The phrase should read: Make MY America Great Again.

What the intent is is very simple: it is supposed to express a desire to return to a time when this country was dominant on the world stage. That time, post WW II when we had a monopoly on much of the world’s industrial capacity.

And we could call the shots. Think for a moment about the recent quote from an anonymous White House aide who was asked to sum up the policy of the current administration who responded: We’re America bitch! (a shot caller if ever I’ve heard one).

A time when good jobs, that offered middle class lives, were plentiful. When the GI Bill offered returning veterans many opportunities (that they had laid their lives on the line to earn). When Andy Griffin lived in Mayberry and the Hillbillies had moved to Beverly Hills.

A time when those plentiful well paying jobs were even more so due to discrimination in hiring practices that locked out many people of color. A time when redlining in the banking industry insured not just that you would get a mortgage, but that the value of your house would increase disproportionately to the houses of your black neighbors. It was a great time!

You could work in a factory in Detroit or Pittsburgh, buy a house, park a bass boat in the driveway and arrange your vacation so that you were out in the woods for buck every year. You put in your 30 years after coming out of high school, and retired to a pension and benefits. Sure the jobs were dirty and dangerous. But you got paid. And the unions made sure you got a raise. And come time, you introduced your son to the foreman and he started working there summers before he graduated.

Had that been MY America? I would most certainly want it back. It was a pretty damn good set up if you ask me. None of these pesky LGBTQ people running around trying to force people to bake cakes for them that don’t want to. And women were home raising the kids, cleaning the house, and making sure supper was ready on time. And we said the pledge of allegiance to start the day. And some of us? Some of us said a prayer along with that pledge. And the black janitor in the mill or the factory? He knew his place.

Had that been my America? I’d damn sure want it back. So I understand.

And I hope it’s clear as well that all I want right now in this America? Is for my life to matter TOO.

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