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In, During - Whatever

It shouldn't surprise us, in the age of "it all depends on the meaning of 'is'", that politicians and others tend to play a little fast and loose, shall we say, with words. A budget projection for health care reform turns out to be, oh, 100 billion or so off, erasing the promised 100 billion savings over the next ten years. Whatever. The Attorney General and the Director of Homeland Security think so little of the language of the Arizona immigration law, which they have denounced, decried, and threatened to bring suit against, that, well, they haven't even bothered to read the actual words of the document.

And then there's Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, captured on video on at least two recent occasions talking about his service "in" Vietnam. But, as the New York Times was kind enough to point out, AG Blumenthal, now running for the U. S. Senate, didn't actually ever serve "in" Vietnam. Well, he explained, what he meant was "during" - you know, during the time that a war was going on over there he was serving somewhere, wherever he was, serving. Indignant at the criticism and flanked by Vietnam vets - many surprised that he had not, in fact, turned up to apologize - AG Blumenthal declared that he would not allow anyone to impune his service record.

Nice use of language to shift the framework, that. His service record is not the issue. His truth-telling is - depending, of course, on what we mean by "is." In, during - whatever. The Connecticut Attorney General, the U. S. Attorney General, the Director of Homeland Security, Representative Mark Souder - and no doubt a cast of thousands of politicians, academics, pundits, and preachers - they all want us to take them seriously, even if they aren't very careful about words relative to their particular offices, and that in spite of the fact that words are their chief stock-in-trade.

Words matter. Truth matters. If we can't trust people to speak truthfully, can we trust them with anything?

T. M. Moore
T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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