If you’re here, you are a writer, and you pay attention to words. Here are some vague terms that are constantly thrown around, and as a writer, I’m increasingly annoyed. Here are my attempts at suggesting clarification. Please feel free to add your own phrases and interpretations.
The Establishment: This description is as insulting as “you people.” It could mean anything from the local County Supervisors and your local library staff, to the House of Representatives, all lobbyists (from gun rights supporters to environmental activists) to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Time to define our terms and find exactly the right words to capture what we mean.
Elites: Who are they? Are they people in power like a county supervisor or the sheriff? Do all elites live on the east coast or are they also rich movie stars? Do you get to be one if you are educated? Is the head of a union an elite? Does it mean you’re a boss? Are you an elite if you supervise six people who run popcorn, funnel cake, and cotton candy stands at the local county fair? Another meaningless term.
“I read somewhere that people are saying….” Let’s all agree, once and for all, that the phrases, “people are saying” or “they say” do not represent credible sources. These phrases mean nothing since somewhere people are also saying that the earth is flat. One more logical fallacy.
Globalization: This sounds like a tidal wave that will engulf us all. But what is it really? Is it a secret plot against people who hold low wage jobs in America? Is it something “the elite” and “the establishment” are conning us with so they can get richer? Is it here to stay or can we destroy it with a suicide vest? Perhaps it is the logical result of the technology that increasingly links us all at the speed of light. Perhaps it’s the result of better nutrition, cleaner water, and more available medical care across the globe. A bad thing? Something to accept or vilify?
Wall Street: Another vague generalization. Does this term include only the people that work there or perhaps anyone who has a 401K? If I work on Wall Street, invest in stocks, or live nearby, am I evil? Where does Wall Street begin and Main Street end? Sure wish the media would stop using vague terms.
Main Street: My mental image of Main Street is very Midwestern U.S. There are the late 1800’s storefronts, refurbished to bring in new shops, many of whom go out to business in six months. The competition is rough out there because of malls and places with huge parking lots. But somehow, Main Street never seems to evoke manufacturing or farming. So misleading. I know many farmers, but they don’t ever think of themselves as Main Street.
Immigration: Another term that has become over generalized so that demagogues can use it to scare people and get attention. Some questions that might add clarity are: Are there “good” immigrants and “bad” immigrants? Like my friend from India who came over in 1985, went through all the bureaucratic steps, and become a citizen–is he now a bad guy? Is the country of origin a rule-out? (Syria, Mexico, or any country with darker skins?) If all the immigrants were from Great Britain, Germany, and France, would this be an issue? If we all agree that prejudice against our immigrant grandparents was unfair, how did immigration somehow become bad?
Polarizing: How easy it is to get angry and fight. How we love our own anger (“I feel it so strongly, it must be right!”). How soothing it is to find someone to blame for any injustice done to us (whether by family member, government, or some suspect ethnic group). How comfy and self-satisfying it feels to identify with “us” and suspect “them.” What is much more difficult is to pause and consider how much we are alike, how those people who are somehow “them” are also struggling to make it through adolescence/young adulthood, raise families, or deal with aging parents. We’re all struggling to find meaningful work, a place to have shelter, cook whatever we can find, and protect our loved ones from all problems. Coming together is hard; fighting is way too easy.