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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

A linguistic gamble by the Pro-War Republicans

In a desperate attempt to stave off today's 50-48 Senate vote installing a timeline for withdrawal in the Iraq funding bill, the Republicans brought out a new talking point and a new word: "surrender."

Now, certainly "surrender" is intended to draw the same cowardly evocations on the Democrats that were so successfully cast by "cut and run," but "surrender" has very different reference points and associations.

One of the reasons that "cut and run" was so successful as a bludgeon was that it focused solely on the individual, and as it became mantra and was stripped from its context, it lost its referential meaning becoming no more that a euphemism for the politically unacceptable "coward."

(The unstated implication being that regardless of the situation, the "cut and runners" would flee in the face of danger.)

Surrender, on the other hand, has a very different evaluative application. When the word surrender is brought forth, attention turns to the situation, not to the surrenderer. As "surrender" represents an action, a decision, a moment in time, it naturally invites an assessment.

When you hear the word surrender, your mind does not immediately turn to the individual surrendering, but instead to the situation in which the surrender took place, the destruction, the odds, the balance.

(As example, think of the Japanese surender in WWII.

You do think of the battleship ceremony, but only after a brief consideration of their destruction and loss. Do you view the Japanese as cowards?

How about the US withdrawal from Vietnam, or Somalia, or Lebanon? Cowardice or judgement?)

When confronted with the concept of surrender, it's rarely viewed as cowardice without a long campaign to portray it so (the French in WWII,) instead, the mind normally inquires about the existing situation, the quality of the decision, and the wisdom exercised.

Certainly "surrender" has alot of negative connotations and has some use politically because of that, but I wonder if they really want to invite that sort of evaluation of the current situation in Iraq or an examination of the individual ultimately making the decisions to fight on.

(Not a rant, but it's been bouncing around my head all day. Hope it makes sense.)


  • When I hear the word surrender, I immediately think of Cheap Trick-"...but don't give yourself away.."

    By Blogger Lew Scannon, at 7:05 PM  

  • Meaning is defined by the listener.

    (Now, for some reason I'm singing "Hold the Line." Thanks alot.)

    By Blogger mikevotes, at 9:11 PM  

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