Sunday, May 14, 2006

New Words

Evildoers. The axis of evil. Harm's way.

These are all terms that were quite rare before the Bush administration came into power. Now hardly a day goes past that I don't read or hear at least one of these three. And they are all loaded with weird stuff.

The first two are most obvious in the religious connotations, the absoluteness of good and evil and the firmness of the moral condemnation. What used to be called criminals in the news is now sometimes called evildoers, and that's George Bush's legacy for us.

The axis of evil is also part of his legacy, including the complications that little term has caused us. I suspect that the speechwriter tried a connection to the Axis of WWII as well as to the idea of the opposition as pure evil.

But harm's way is in some ways the worst of these terms as it looks so innocent. It's usually employed in the context of soldiers being sent to Iraq, to be in "harm's way", as if the harm was somehow independent of them being sent there, as if the harm wasn't intentionally created and as if the soldiers aren't going to be active participants in at least some harm to someone. "Harm's way" sounds something like being exposed to bird flu, something that the Bush administration can't really actively combat. Because it's to their advantage that we believe this?

These terms aren't really wrong, but they are right in an odd way, a way that makes us ignore certain solutions to the problems and to accept other solutions too easily.