Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns


The Obama administration has renamed enemy combatants something else. I sense something of the many levels of meaning in this, and was ready to pontificate on it when I noticed a couple of other things having to do with words: There was a U.S.-Chinese naval standoff; and the US was interested in retooling US-Pakistani relationship; and then I noticed that Russia weighs bases in Cuba and Venezuela, but then a Russian general clarified and said while it is possible to have a base in Cuba, not so in Venezuela because their constitution prohibited establishment of military bases of foreign states on Venezuelan territory and described the Russian possible use of the facility there as "we land, we complete the flight, we take off." Good, I thought, that clarifies things.

English likes to take words it likes from any language and use it, sometimes changing their meanings. We get many words from Spanish, of course. Never mind place names like Los Angeles and California, Montana and Colorado. Other personal favorites are hombre and tobacco and cigar. Another is embargo. Lasso. Renegade. Cockroach. Vamoose. Buckaroo. Desperado. Hemingway introduced the Spanish phrase, hora de la verdad as "moment of truth" in Death in the Afternoon when he was bemoaning how base and decadent bullfighting had become. Not like the old days.

I was reading a simple volume called Abraham Lincoln and Robert Burns: Connected Lives and Legends when I came across this surprising explanation, put forward as a persistent legend, of the origin of the word "gringo". I like it, so I pass it along, trying to keep a good myth alive. In the Mexican-American War soldiers (many Irish and Scot) liked to sing Robert Burns’ Green grow the rashes, O (written) and sung and spoken. And as the Mexican soldiers heard this, they made "green grow" into "gringo."

Discussions - 4 Comments

What does Obama call enemy combatants? CAMPAIGN SUPPORTERS!

I have heard this myth before except that in the version I heard the song was "Green Grow the Lylacs". An alternate theory for the origin of "Gringo" is as a corruption of "Griego" (meaning Greek, ie., foreign, other).

I am so glad you gentlemen focus on the important stuff.

What are those "enemy combatants" now? All I see as designator is "people deemed to be dangerous". Why don't we just call them "bad guys"? It is so much simpler and says so much. Otherwise, we are being evasive about what we mean.

"Who exactly can be held indefinitely as a prisoner in the war on terrorism?" Answer: "Bad guys"

"It said the president can use the military against (bad guys) who planned or aided the terrorist attacks."

"The American Civil Liberties Union called it 'deeply troubling' because it retained an 'overly broad interpretation' of who can be held as a (bad guy).

Orwell: The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink. In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics’. All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia. When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer.

How clintonesque of him, now anyone can be held and denied rights depending on what the definition of aided is. Did my thinking that the war might not be a good idea aid them, of course it did. Uncertainity hurts moral and hurts the troops. It is clear that no law has to come up on CSPAN before the corrupt criminals in power can knock on your door and take you away in the night. All they have to do is say that you aided terrorists and poof, you were never heard from again. The lack of specifics is really scary. You can call the people being detained whatever you want but if they are not given the right to challenge their detainment demand some sort of trial or at least supporting evidence then might as well saddle them with the term innocent men. We are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty, so by that the 'bad guys' are innocent. The existence of thse camps is really suspect in and of itself. If they really are a threat then shoot to kill or torture for info then kill, don't detain. What good is detaining? I have yet to even hear about re education going on.

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