"Strike Some Words from National Lexicon," a Commentary by Hubert G. Locke

December 29, 2006


Source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer


The eve of a new year prods us all to think about the possibilities for fresh starts and new resolves. Given the seismic political change in the other Washington that occurred six weeks ago, one of the initiatives we might hope for in the coming year is a substantial improvement in our national vocabulary.

The opportunity -- not to mention the need -- for greater civility in our national discourse has been increased enormously with the changing of the political guard, if for no other reason than it replaces a climate of fear and mistrust with one of cautious concern and sensibility. This should have a positive impact on the way in which we look at and talk about the myriad problems our nation needs to address and resolve.

It would greatly aid our national discussion if, for openers, we could frankly acknowledge that one of the regrettable outcomes of Sept. 11, 2001, has been the resurrection of some age-old national bigotries, directed toward new targets. The post-9/11 spate of English-as-the-official-language and only-fly-the-American-flag resolutions around the country are among the numerous indications that popular attitudes have reverted to the crudeness of an earlier day. There is very little to indicate those attitudes are improving.

Popular sentiment regarding immigrants is a case in point. Immigrants have never been recipients of much national affection in this country; one only has to read the popular press in the past quarter of the 19th century (when the great-grandparents of many of today's anti-immigrant loudmouths were themselves arriving on these shores) to know that calls for closing the borders are not new.