Some words about words

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As I was scrolling through my Facebook “memories,” a video popped up from seven years ago. I was in Harrisburg, speaking on the steps of the state capitol at a pro-life rally. The thing that struck me, other than the fact that it was such a large crowd of people, were the words I was using about … words.

More specifically, I was talking about the importance of using the correct language when talking about pro-life issues.

The abortion rights movement has been able to deflect attention from the actual nature of abortion by repackaging it first as “choice,” and then when that wasn’t working well, shifting to “women’s reproductive health.” They called people like me, who opposed abortion, “anti-choice,” and refused to use the term that we prefer, “pro-life.” They discouraged the use of the word “abortionist” and opted to use the more ambiguous “doctor” or “health care provider.”

For decades, it worked. Two generations of people grew up believing that abortion was a right, instead of a human rights violation. That’s why people were so shocked when Roe vs. Wade was overturned last year, because they couldn’t believe that this benign right that they had taken for granted for almost five decades was exposed as the sham creation of a few elderly male justices.

Words matter. Language matters. Lately, I’ve begun to describe myself as “anti-abortion” as opposed to “pro-life,” for consistency and transparency. I support the death penalty in capital cases, mostly the ones involving murder or crimes against a child. Therefore, to be morally and internally consistent with my language, I cannot call myself “pro-life.” But there is no question that anyone who thinks abortion should be legal is “pro-abortion.” That’s just common sense.

I suppose my interest in language stems from the fact that I was essentially raised by nuns. In the Catholic schools of my era, you were taught reverence for words and their place in our lexicon. We would diagram sentences, and I still know the difference between a gerund, a past participle, an adjective, adverb and a subordinate clause.

I was also a teacher of foreign languages, and I understand the importance of context and connotation. And those four years of high school Latin drilled into me the beauty that comes from unraveling knots of words, to reveal as smooth and seamless line of poetry. Gaul might have been divided into three parts, but I was more concerned with the beauty of the words, not geographical accuracy.

Beyond the abortion context, I have started to see crimes committed against language, with a view to creating false narratives. Those false narratives are then used to change society into something that is base, dishonest, and dangerous. Take, for example, the trans controversy.

It’s quite common to receive emails these days where the person provides his or her (or “their”) preferred pronouns. We are told that “trans women” are actual women, and that men can get pregnant. People tell us these things with a straight face, and if we laugh or protest, we are bigots. It is so bizarre, we now have a Supreme Court justice, Ketanji Brown Jackson, who is either unwilling or unable to define the term “woman.”

I know a bunch of third-graders who are apparently more aware than Justice Jackson of the difference between men and women. When I asked one of them the other day, she said this: “Women can be mommies. They don’t have to be mommies, but they can be mommies if they want. Men can’t, even though they can look like them.”

I want to nominate that child for the Nobel Prize in Common Sense.

The words that we use determine the rules by which we live. If we accept that a person who was born with the biological apparatus of a man is actually a woman, and if we base this on the fact that the man really believes he is a woman, then we are obligated to call that person a “woman.” Frankly, I do not want to live in that sort of world, and I do not intend to.

People can lie to themselves because they mistakenly believe that is a form of tolerance, or they can lie to themselves because they know the science and it doesn’t agree with their preconceived notions of right and wrong, real and fictitious. We can call a man a woman to be polite, and we can call a baby a fetus in order to strip it of its humanity. But in the end, the words have their own life, their own value and existence separate and apart from any dishonest purpose, and I refuse to play that game.

I said that pretty clearly seven years ago. I’m saying it now.

Copyright 2023 Christine Flowers, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Christine Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Delaware County Daily Times, and can be reached at [email protected].

Christine Flowers is a Philadelphian who loves the Eagles but can leave the cheesesteaks. She writes about anything that will likely annoy the majority of people, and in her spare time practices immigration law (which is bound to annoy at least some people.)