A lot of Democrats and self-described Liberals operate under the delusion that the euphemistic racism and misogyny (and mad-dog genocidalism! let's not forget . . .) of the Grand Old Party is a sophisticated program of obfuscatory language deployed to confuse the general electorate while signaling to their hardcore supporters that, yes, they will keep the negroes, wogs, and female-Americans in their proper, which is to say prone, place. Politics being the sphere of tenacious mediocrity, however, there's a simpler truth: Republicans use their euphemisms not because of sophistication, but because of crudity, hence their perennial popularity with the media and with The American People--also, truth be told, spheres (in the case of The American People, quite literally) of mediocrity. When you graduated from college and rented your first apartment on your own, perhaps your mother called you, worried that you were moving into a "bad neighborhood." It wasn't merely decorum preventing Mom from telling you to move somewhere with fewer black folk and less Section 8. The bad neighborhood was just a big, fat, unexamined premise in her brain. She didn't really mean that "Black people are dangerous criminals to a white faggot like you," even though that's precisely what she really meant. Paradox lies at the heart of such euphemism.
Here is Rich Lowry at The National Review writing about Hurricane Katria and its aftermath:
New Orleans, as it once existed--as a city of half-a-million people built below sea level in a flood-prone area in the path of hurricanes--was never a natural phenomenon. It was a triumph of human ingenuity, of the feats of engineering that gave it the levees and flood walls and pumps to keep it dry enough to support its charming, but politically, socially and economically dysfunctional, existence on the edge of the deluge.Because Lowry writes for a magazine, there exists the temptation to presume a certain degree of rhetorical sophistication; therefore, there exists the temptation to presume that when he calls New Orleans "charming, but politically, socially and economically dysfunctional," he understands that what he's really saying is: "New Orleans is full of really neat musical niggers, but if they haven't got a trumpet in hand, they're probably just smoking the crack rock, murdering white people, and voting for Democrats, and that is why the levees failed."
Dear reader, resist the temptation! No man who leads off by noting that a city is not a natural phenomenon should benefit from presumptions of sophistication. (The under-sea-level stuff is doubly ridiculous as justification for this kind of Master-of-the-Obvious mooing; are we to presume that safely altitudinous Denver, say, exists sui generis--a gleaming high-plains miracle just waiting for inhabitants?) Lowry doesn't mean that "New Orleans is full of really neat musical niggers, but if they haven't got a trumpet in hand, they're probably just smoking the crack rock, murdering white people, and voting for Democrats, and that is why the levees failed," even though that's exactly what he means.
Lowry runs through the familiar litany: that after 9/11, George W. entered his "heroic phase," that Afghanistan proved how awesome America is, that firefighters and policemen are rad, and that Katrina "was ripping the political guts out of [the Bush] administration." Katrina, also, played out "against the backdrop of the Iraq war." Once again, it's tempting to believe that Lowry has constructed all this bromidic nonsense as part of a specific project to propagandize the just folks out in the heartland. Once again, it's wrong. His language lacks the subtle self-regard of the intentional euphemist. Like many regular reporters, as well as most partisan media figures, he really believes this crap is true, even though he leaves the specific meaning of any given phrase entirely unexamined. He really believes that Bush-with-Bullhorn was "heroic," for instance. He really thinks of the War in Iraq is some kind of "backdrop" against which other things "play out."
He quotes Emerson: "Events are in the saddle and ride mankind." He then observes:
Nothing is so damaging to a political leader. Bush’s presidency will remain diminished until he finds a way to vindicate human ingenuity’s power over events, and show that he again is in the saddle.Is it possible to further misconstrue Emerson's little aphorism? It isn't a condition to be rectified. Surely there was dithering, incompetence, and dismal malfeasance following the destruction of New Orleans--and likewise over in Backgroundland. These, neither, are fixable. I doubt very much they can even be much ameliorated. The horse not only doesn't, but can't ride the rider.