I recently heard a radio show host (a guest on another's show I have since forgotten) call pro-choice people “pro-abortion.” While this is true of a minority of those who call themselves pro-choice (those who would try to prevent women considering abortion from receiving pro-life information pamphlets or from requiring waiting periods or ultrasounds), I do not believe it is true of the majority. Many of those who call themselves pro-choice speak of their unease and concern that they might be ending a life, and many even admit that they would probably choose life themselves. Even after an email was sent to him by a listener, equating calling “pro-choice” “pro-abortion” with calling “pro-life” “anti-choice,” this radio host dug himself in deeper and continued his characterization, using an argument I admit I didn’t really understand.
I don’t believe this type of rhetoric is helpful. When one is debating another, it behooves us to adopt their language. I myself am pro-life, and I believe the pro-choice position can be defeated on its merits, but by representing my opponents as something they claim not to be, I hurt my own argument and only make enemies when I should be trying to find common ground, such as trying to minimize the number of abortions or perhaps promoting choice in other areas. I hope people can understand this.
The same phenomenon occurs in other areas. Homosexual activists refuse to use the word “marriage” as most people have always used it and refuse to admit that at least some of those who support traditional marriage aren’t homophobes. Others refuse to accept that in normal everyday language, corporations are not people and instead stick to the legal terminology, thus losing the larger argument by default of whether the government should be involved in regulating speech at all. I refuse to get bogged down by whether corporations should be called people or not; it’s all semantics (a rose by any other name); I would rather spend my time defending freedom of political speech.
Rush Limbaugh recently spoke of not wanting to lower himself to the education level of others, instead preferring to raise others up when speaking of what capitalism is, but he can’t raise anyone up who isn’t listening, and I wonder if the reason many tune him out is because they think of capitalism something that it is not, and hear him praising it. He may get better reception if he broadcasts the same message a different way, using a word other than capitalism to say essentially the same things.
When speaking to those we already agree with, we can use our own language, but if we are ever to reach those who disagree, one of us must adopt the language of the other. Don’t make the other guy do all the work; take the first step.
Hi, I'm Dan. I like chocolate, hiking, and politics.