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With this line, Eliza Doolittle, of Lerner and Lowe's Broadway musical My Fair Lady, introduces the song Show Me!. She is complaining not only about the ordeal the noble professors are putting her through, but also about her suitor's reluctance to show his love, rather than just talk about it.
We know what she means. Words can be like swords cutting through the haze of consciousness to the deeper meanings of reality...or...especially in politics, meant only to fill time and to mean nothing in particular...or...simply to create illusions, much like the trickery of a "magic" act in Las Vegas.
You have probably seen the ad where a young man is introducing the groom and bride at a wedding. Forgetting the bride's name, he leans over to a woman seated beside him who then appears to angrily whisper the missing name in his ear. He then cheerily introduces the bride as "Shirley Stupid!" Apparently, he missed the comma in his prompter's words.
Editor's note to ad agency: Try as we might, although we laugh heartily each time we see this item, while writing this column we could NOT remember just WHAT was being advertised by this clip. Oops!
Or, Gypsy remembers the time where she had lost her cool on the job and called one of her superiors a "bitch." Advised that, if she wanted to keep her job, she had better apologize to the woman, she walked up to her and said, "I'm really, really sorry you're a bitch!" Ooops!
Then there is the time in prison when Willy...raised firmly in the upper-middle-class belief that sticks and stones can break your bones, etc....commented to a fellow convict during a heated discussion that he was "talking like a cop." Willy soon found himself in a knife fight...without a knife. Oooops!
So it is with many of our readers, bless their black hearts. Middle class intellectuals have the peculiar belief that, as long as they are "polite"...that is, they use no naughty words...they can insult you as much as they please and your only recourse is to "take it like a man." Thus, after we have written a particular "offensive" piece, like last week's essay on Pat Buchanan (Go, Dog, Go!), we not only get numerous "unsubscribe" notices from irate readers...particularly capital "L" Libertarians, who seem to be unusually sensitive to having their childish tempers tweaked...but said notices are often accompanied by "polite" pejoratives like "you don't have the slightest idea what you are talking about" or "I can't stand your idle daydreams any longer!"
Blessed as we are of not having to write this column for a living...and thus unconstrained in what we can or can not say in response to unruly correspondents...we frequently answer with much less "proper" remarks such as, "Writing nasty letters to strangers is often a sign of low self esteem. Have you considered a penile implant?"
Or, "Writing email flames is a form of mental masturbation. Please grasp your teenie weenie lightly twixt thumb and forefinger and do it the old fashioned way. It is far more rewarding."
We can get away with the penis references since women rarely if ever write such testosteroni-baloney. To date, we have never had to suggest breast implants to a single female, in order to enhance her self image. But you should see the results we get from implying to men that their peepee-doo-doos are less than adequate! Especially if the men know that this outrage is coming, at least in part, from a woman! Well, we tried to warn you that our column was meant to make you think, but you didn't pay attention.
Words are often completely defined by the context in which they are used. Take "Nigger" for example. Literally, it is an old term for a member of the Negro race. From the mouth of a KKK spokesperson, it is a vicious put-down, carrying ominous overtones of discrimination, hate and lynchings. On the street, between African-American youth, it is a term of affection, as in "S'up, Nigger?"
Or "Dog." Not just a term describing a member of the canine family, it has become an interracial term of endearment, especially among professional athletes. How many of you caught this somewhat obscure pun-ditry in the title of our last piece...Go, Dog, Go!?
Words in politics take on every role imaginable. They are frequently re-cast in new roles, like actors taking on new challenges. Communists used to say, for example, that "Property is theft!" meaning that material goods belong to everyone and that to assume ownership is to "steal" from the collective. Libertarians, not to be outdone by their leftist nemeses, coined the catchy slogan "Taxation is theft!" meaning that the government, through an implied use of force to collect taxes, is really "stealing" our money from us.
Now, in neither case is theft used in its usual sense, taking that which is owned by another, through force or stealth. Remember, in both cases, the political operatives were fighting customs ingrained in the societies they were attempting to change. Under those circumstances, step one is to give new meaning to old words. On the other hand, having just DEFINED property, the ancients who put the words "Thou shalt not steal!" into the mouth of their God knew exactly what they meant. But what does "You have stolen my heart." mean?
Tell me not dreams
Filled with desire.
If you're on fire,
SHOW ME! And that's the bottom line, in politics as in love and life. All the blah-blah, all the obfuscation and redefinition and simple blarney...in the end must be backed with DEEDS to acquire real meaning. So, when we write about Oprah or Pat for president and go on and on about their qualifications or desirability or electability, we know in our hearts that it is all for naught unless enough of you...the people...see fit to make it actually happen at voting time.
So, we try to tie our thoughts to tangible events and objects in the real world, even if we have to construct those objects and events ourselves. When we talk about Oprah for President, we erect a Web site toward that end. When we speak of Jesse Ventura or Pat Buchanan, we try to sell you their books...since these books ARE interesting and we get a small kickback from Amazon.com for each copy sold from our site.
One of the greatest put-on artists of all time, Andy Kaufman, was a master of using words to entertain, to inflame, to reveal and conceal. Just before he died, of lung cancer at the tender age of 35, he confided to his best friend Bob Zmuda, who put it into a book, that to fail is OK...but, not to try is NOT OK. We agree...
Say one more word and I'll scream!
Haven't your lips
Longed for my touch?
Don't say how much,
Show me! Show me!
Don't wait until wrinkles and lines
Pop out all over my brow,
Show me now! Talk to you later...
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