Progressive ‒ and Other Misused Words

By | December 18, 2017 | 0 Comments

Scientists speculate about alternate universes, but now we have proof. Leftists have been living in one for years.
‒ Dennis Prager

It used to be common to hear a statement described as “words of wisdom.” Now, however, wisdom is no longer highly prized. Instead, we often use words carelessly, to evoke emotion, rather than to convey meaning.


Today we worship youth, beauty, and health. We disrespect the elderly, a primary source of wisdom. So we tolerate people who seek to discard the elderly and the disabled, because it is not “cost-effective” to care for them. We didn’t object when President Obama suggested that the elderly should receive pain pills instead of surgery, and that they should receive pacemakers only if this will “save money.”

How is it “progressive” to put dollars ahead of human life? That sounds like the worst form of reactionary capitalism.

How is it “progressive” to place the health care − and hence the lives − of all of us under control of the government?

How is it “progressive” for unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats to decide who is worthy to remain alive, and who is not?

How is it “progressive” for the government to control everything from talk radio to light bulbs and toilets?

How is it “progressive” to go back to the days of absolute monarchs ruling powerless subjects? Louis XIV boasted, “I am the state.” But even he did not seek to control what medicines doctors prescribed or what toilets people used. On the contrary, today’s “progressives” have no limits to their lust for control. Perhaps their motivation is less political than it is psychological. Perhaps Freud could explain a compulsion to control toilets.

“You’re wrong.”

We think in our native language. In English, we express you are correct as, “You’re right,” and you are incorrect as, “You’re wrong.” But “right” can mean correct in a factual sense or in a moral sense, while “wrong” can have the opposite meanings, depending on context.

But we often leave the context unclear, so it is easy to confuse the two meanings. When we say, “I’m right,” we may intend to say that we are making a factually correct statement, but we may subconsciously add the implication that we are morally correct. And when we tell someone, “You’re wrong,” we may subconsciously convey to him and to ourselves the idea that he is not only mistaken factually but also wrong morally.

If a person feels challenged to verify his facts, he may be irritated, but he probably will try to do so. But if he believes that his motives and ethics are being attacked, he is likely to respond with anger.

If we believe that we have our facts straight, we may feel intellectually superior, but we probably will try to persuade our opponent. But if we also believe that we are morally superior, we may abandon efforts to convince him and substitute contempt, anger − or even hatred. If you doubt this, listen to the current political debate.


This word now covers everything from a misspelled word to murder. Murder is a sin and a crime − a mistake is what gets the murderer caught. Calling serious crimes “mistakes” reveals a profound dulling of moral perception. If a defense attorney uses “mistake” to minimize his client’s crime, at least he is doing what he is paid for. What’s our excuse?

If someone uses the same word to describe deliberate killing of a human being and taking the wrong exit on a freeway, he demonstrates serious intellectual and ethical confusion. If he pretends not to be able to distinguish the difference, he is a liar. If he really can’t distinguish the difference, he is an enabler of evil and a potentially dangerous person.

Getting an incorrect total in your checkbook is a mistake. Being unfaithful to your wife is a sin. Killing an innocent human being is a sin and a crime. This is not complex.


When we say, “That was quite a performance,” the meaning depends on context. If someone just scored a goal, it means that we are impressed with an athletic feat. But if our boss just bawled out a lazy employee, it could mean, “He really set that jerk straight.” Or it could mean, “The boss is quite an actor, isn’t he?”

“Performance” may refer to how workers do their jobs, or how actors do theirs. In the first case, the word refers to how well people actually do something, while in the second, it refers to how well they pretend to be doing it.

When we talk about a politician’s “performance,” do we mean what he is actually doing, or do we mean the style in which he is doing it? If we mean style, then it is no surprise that Obama’s “performance” as President was rated higher than Trump’s. But if we mean actual accomplishments, then the reverse might well be true.

“Kill” versus “murder.”

This confusion may stem from a recurring mistranslation of the Commandment. When I was a child, I was taught that it said, “Thou shalt not kill.” Some modern versions of the Bible still make this error.

But Hebrew, like English, uses two words. Deliberate killing of an innocent person is murder. In the Bible, it carries the death penalty. In fact, this law is the only law that is repeated in all of the first five books of the Bible, which Jews call the Torah. That fact reveals that the author − or as I believe, the Author − attaches great importance to this law.

We demonstrate our reverence for human life by doing our best to preserve it − even in the elderly and the disabled − and by treating with great severity those who destroy it.

Hebrew, like English, uses another word for kill. This broader term includes killing in defense of self or others, killing in a just war, and humanely killing animals for food. It also includes what we now call manslaughter − that is, killing a human being accidentally, or carelessly, or in the heat of the moment. For this, the Bible teaches that the perpetrator should flee to a city of refuge − to avoid the vengeance of the victim’s family − and that judges should then decide the case.

When you hear someone use “Thou shalt not kill” as an argument against the death penalty for premeditated murder, or against self-defense from a deadly threat, or against a just war, or against using animals for food, you know the person may be expressing a strongly held personal belief, but it is a belief that is not based on the Bible.

The Bible and the Constitution were written on parchment. Now they are written on paper. However, they are not written on rubber. They cannot stretch to cover whatever notion we may have at the moment. That would mean there really is no Bible, and there really is no Constitution − there is only our own opinion. And the only opinion that really matters is that of government officials.

Thus we are downgraded from free citizens of a constitutional republic to powerless subjects of an autocratic government, with no clear concept of our rights, and no document to guarantee them. There, is that “progressive” enough for you?

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