Letters: Division is poison, choose a better way
October 14, 2022
Politicians are sending us campaign literature. I ask of every sentence that comes my way: how shall I pick this sentence up? What shall I do with it? It seems as if our default assumption is that (declarative) sentences are about the natural world and therefore true or false; but if you pay attention, you’ll see that assumption is often false. If the speaker/writer doesn’t allow any way the sentence could be wrong, it’s not about the natural world and not a matter of truth or falsity.
It might be used to try to incite us to have a certain feeling or to do a certain thing — jump on a bandwagon. It might be so ambiguous you can’t really tell how to pick it up, what to do with it. There are other roles it might have, on this occasion of its use.
If it’s being used to divide us, I don’t pick it up. I leave it alone. We’ve tried division — tribalism, loyalty to party above all else — and see it’s poison. “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.” President Abraham Lincoln, March 4, 1861 inaugural address.
Pete Radosevich tells us: “It’s not us versus Them, it’s us. All of us.” I count that sentence as ambiguous. But not divisive. Rather, an attempt to unite us — e pluribus unum — out of many, one.
Bruce Marshall, Kettle River