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Of gravitas and connecting the dots

By Peter J. Fusco
web posted June 3, 2002

Remember the last new, old political phrase? It included the word "gravitas". Mario Cuomo started it all when he slung it around liberally on the Charlie Rose program just prior to the 2000 campaign. It was something along the lines of, "Bush's sense of gravitas", or "there is a question of gravitas here", or, "the Republicans are lacking in gravitas."

Typical of the sheep mentality on which liberals and Democrats depend, and with which they are so familiar, their fondness for anything resembling a sound bite sent "gravitas" to the top of the charts with a bullet. In a matter of days everyone in liberal circles and the media was sporting "gravitas" like Nehru shirts at a love-in.

Liberals and Democrats come up with all the new ones. They popularized classics like "diversity" and "multiculturalism" as friendly, fuzzy words to describe their even newer word, "inclusion", and that real beauty, "tolerance". But they are much better at words and phrases with negative connotations such as, "homophobia", "vast right-wing conspiracy", "hate-crime", and that all time, sinister favorite, "what did he know, and when did he know it?"

Their latest is, "connecting the dots", a reference to the child's game in which a picture can be created by drawing lines from dot one to dot two etc. It sounds innocuous enough, but it is not. In fact, like Ebola, it jumped species. Some Republicans have caught the virus and are in danger of making it a part of their vernacular. In the political-speak of the 21st century, it is supposed to conjure images of an incompetent Bush Administration bungling its way through the War on Terrorism. Being married to, "what did he know, and when did he know it?" makes for a simple, wide-ranging, and compelling condemnation without having to bring facts into the mix. Democrats therefore seized on the phrase the same way they did "gravitas" two years ago, and they are using it ad nauseum.

Conservatives and Republicans seem to be stuck with words and phrases from a bygone era. They talk about "courage", "patriotism", "family values", "morality", "rugged individualism", and "faith in God." All very boring to liberals, and quaint in an anachronistic way to the media.

Whenever Republicans use their words and phrases, they run the risk of sounding like precisely what liberals and Democrats have designed their new words and phrases to describe. If a Republican talks about "morality" or "family values", liberals call him a "homophobe" or "bigot". When conservatives bring up "equality", liberals talk "affirmative action".

Liberals are not satisfied with just their new words and phrases however, they are unabashed when it comes to redefining old ones for their new purposes. "Homosexuality" is now "pedophilia", but only as it applies to Catholic priests, not the North American Man-Boy Love Association. Those men are simply "expressing their sexuality". "Human rights" describes what white people refuse blacks. "Entitlement" is just another way of nicely packaging the redistribution of wealth. It is also another word for "welfare". "Abortion" is legal murder just as is "mercy-killing" ("euthanasia" confuses the great unwashed). When conservatives bring up God within the context of a political discussion, liberals pull out "separation of church and state" even though they know the Constitution means "no state sponsored religions". Pornography, once a clearly defined word, is now another way of saying "freedom of speech" in their new language.

We conservatives and Republicans have to come up with a new way of saying old things. But I am not sure how we would describe morality and decency as anything other than "morality" and "decency". Perhaps there are very creative conservatives out there who could come up with some new words for our tired, old beliefs. But then, it is the bane of conservative philosophy that the core of our existence precludes any such activity. Truth cannot be redefined.

Peter Fusco has written for The Utica Daily Press, Recycling Today and Summit Magazine and is putting the finishing touches on a new book.

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