NORMAN — “Conversation” used to be such a pleasant, unifying term, calling up images of reasonable people talking and listening to one another in reasonable tones — until it joined the ranks of words and phrases hijacked by the liberal left.
I know politicians of both parties try to manipulate language. Those on the left are correct to point out that not every millionaire is a “job creator,” as implied by too many Republicans, unless we want to pretend that superstars like Miley Cyrus created the jobs for the host of assistants and bodyguards surrounding them.
But the list on the left is far longer than that on the right, and that is because they have so much more to disguise about their agenda. Why else would they use terms like “revenue enhancement” to describe a tax increase? Or, when they want to force people, under penalty of law, to pay more taxes, do they always claim that they just want to, “ask the wealthy to pay a little bit more”?
It is because they know what far too many in the media and the general population apparently don’t — that those who control the terms of the debate control the debate.
Hey, if they’re only “asking” for a bit more of my money, what’s the big deal? I can always turn them down if I can’t afford it, right?
Wrong. They get to decide if you can afford it.
And this is exactly what is going on when they claim they want to have a “conversation” about anything. Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick has taken to saying, “We shouldn’t be afraid to have that conversation,” about his constant efforts to make government bigger and taxpayers poorer.
Attorney General Eric Holder claims to want an “honest conversation” about race. And more recently, President Obama and his supporters called yet again for a “conversation” about gun control, after Aaron Alexis, the government contractor and former Navy reservist, killed 12 people and injured eight others at the Washington Navy Yard before he was shot to death himself.
But they don’t want a conversation — at least not in the way that most of us used to understand it. If they did, do you think, especially following the president’s call a few years ago for “civility” in political discourse, that they would tolerate their most outspoken supporters referring to anyone on the other side as “gun nuts”? Is that the way to start a conversation?
If they did, do you think Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz would claim that the recent recall of two gun-control advocates in the Colorado Legislature was “voter suppression, pure and simple,” caused by the National Rifle Association and the demonic, wealthy Koch brothers?
Or did she just forget that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is on her side, is worth $27 billion and gave at least $350,000 to the anti-recall effort? Or that the pro-recall side was outspent by about 8-1?
If they wanted a conversation, do you think the Left’s public relations arm, the New York Times, would have called the Colorado recalls, “a disgraceful low point in punitive single-issue politicking by the gun lobby”?
The Times has no problem at all with single-issue politicking if those issues are abortion or gay marriage and the vote goes they way they want it to.
If they wanted a conversation, do you think there would have been an automatic assumption, widely proclaimed, that Alexis had committed his murderous rampage with an AR-15 semi-automatic “assault” rifle?
Turns out he did it with a shotgun that he had time to reload many times, since hardly anyone else in the building — a military installation — was armed.
But there were no major mea culpas issued from those who made the assault rifle claim. Nor were there many mentions — except on a few conservative websites — of Vice President Joe Biden’s exhortation, during last year’s push to ban assault weapons, for people to “Buy a shotgun! Buy a shotgun!” for self protection.
After all, if they engaged in a “conversation” about that, they might have to acknowledge that their insistence that an assault weapons ban will end mass killings is a fantasy. They might have to acknowledge that their endgame is to ban shotguns and other guns as well.
If they wanted a conversation, they might be more willing to discuss the fact that those magical “background checks” are not a foolproof solution either. It turns out that Alexis had passed two background checks. He had shown clear evidence of mental illness, but never lost his security clearances.
If they really wanted a conversation, they would be willing to discuss whether the pronounced increase in mass shootings since 1970 might have anything to do with the deinstitutionalization of the severely mentally ill starting that year.
Yes, many of those institutions were awful — simply warehousing badly damaged people. But taking guns away from law-abiding citizens doesn’t address the problem. Better institutions would.
If they really wanted a conversation, they would be willing to discuss the influence on mentally unbalanced people of rampant violence in Hollywood movies and video games.
But the only conversation they want is the one-way version. They want the other side to shut up, roll over and let them pretend they are protecting “the children.”
Thankfully, so far the guilt trip is not working. And it won’t, as long as we realize that “conversation” is nothing but a code word for: “Do as I say.”
Taylor Armerding is an independent columnist. Contact him at email@example.com