Portland State University’s Faculty Senate passed a resolution earlier this month affirming “that active political participation is not only the right but the responsibility of all citizens of a democratic country.” It is a sad measure of our nation’s current situation that such a notion seems to require the status of bold political statement.
The resolution calls upon “all public officials, national, state and local” to quit engaging in irresponsible, irritating and idiotic actions “which discourage political participation … or which prejudice the right to a fair trial of any accused persons.” I just added the part about irresponsible, irritating and idiotic, but I couldn’t help myself.
I couldn’t help myself because idiotic and irresponsible are about the nicest words I have for people who show themselves anxious to confiscate my rights and liberties. For those who believe that the word “terrorist” may be assigned with equal intelligence to murderers and vandals, the kindest descriptions I can offer are: obnoxious, odious and dangerous.
The members of the Faculty Senate who passed the resolution may have many differing opinions about the fixity of language during uncertain times. Being academics, they are bound by some interpersonal version of thermodynamics that tend to fall apart, if not provoke equal and opposite reactions. Sir Isaac Newton notwithstanding, those 46 professorial types agreed that nonviolent political dissent is at least a little different than terrorism.
There may be some members of Portland’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (no, not that kind of joint) who disagree with this notion. They may feel that the nature of meaning and the words arbitrarily assigned to those meanings (if that’s the way one chooses to look at it) is extremely … fluid.
Those folks, encouraged by the actions of certain Justice Department officials (you know who you are, they know who you are), may sit down to their adult beverages at the end of the day and wonder at the power of language. They may stare hard at stains in their suits, squint their eyes, click their heels together and shout, “terrorist!” assuming the stains will respond by retreating back into the ketchup bottles from whence they came.
I have a couple of polite words to assign to those name-calling characters: execrable, repulsive, repellant and repugnant. I find their sloppy and slaphappy efforts to efface their favorite floating and sloppy signifier (to wit, terrorism) to be displeasing, disappointing, disheartening and disconcerting.
In fact, their logoterrorism has left me feeling as though we all reside some distance from terra firma, word-wise. Seeing as how big timber and overzealously cooperating public officials have made such great use of the T-word, however, I have decided to try out its power on my own behalf.
The next time the phone company mails me a bill including fees for services I never wanted, I’ll be sending a note to my new friends in the Joint Terrorism Task Force. I’m sure they will agree with me that hidden fees and secreted explosives amount to essentially the same imperilment against my homeland (or apartment, or bank account).
Should the number 12 bus continue to pass my stop early when I’m on time, and arrive late when I’m early, I’ll remind my allies at City Hall that buses are being vehicles of terrorism far too often to remain loose on the road. Standing together, united, we can show our strength and determination by keeping those tools of mass transportation off the road until they prove their innocence.
I hope the folks (who have thrown around the terms and notions of terrorism so much that our faculty senate felt required to waste its time with this resolution) have noticed the panoply and plethora of derogatory descriptors included above. The next time these tax-funded fanatics lack the language to imprison an ideological enemy, I hope they will disdain the T-word. I mean “terrorist,” not “thesaurus.”