America Would Be Better Off Without Adjectives


According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), between 2010 and 2019, 76% of killings in America have been committed by right-wing extremists, 20% by domestic Islamic extremists, 3% by left-wing extremists, and 1% are counted as miscellaneous. These numbers come from the ADL because after 2017, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security appears to have lost its ability to count or make pie charts.

What has been apparent is the Republican party trend to muddy the waters when it comes to who the radicals are. On Meet the Press this Sunday, Aug. 30, radio talk show host and former Republican North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory painted all the recent violence in America as being caused by “anarchists,” a word most frequently used to refer to those who wish to overthrow the established government. You know the famous ones: Emma Goldman, Dorothy Day, Che Guevara, Noam Chomsky. All these folks have been identified as lefties, not a David Duke among them.

McCrory’s muddying of the “anarchist” label brought to mind the words of Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin), Senate Chair of the Homeland Security Committee. In Sept. 25, 2019, Senator Johnson used his committee platform to take a stand against labeling. “I do,” he said, “want to challenge the use of ‘far-right’ and ‘far-left’ as descriptive adjectives for hate groups like white supremacists, anti-Semites, or environmental terror groups. I realize this has become accepted terminology, but I believe we need to break that habit.” Senator Johnson went on to suggest his thoughtful and fair solution to this problem. “So let us drop the far-right/far-left descriptors,” he said, “and simply call a hate group a ‘hate group’ and a terrorist a ‘terrorist.’”

I am not sure why Republican leaders are so interested in breaking the habit of using descriptive words that help to define an existing problem. When I go to the doctor with a broken arm, I don’t hesitate to tell him which arm is broken, and I will even use my healthy arm to gesture at the broken one. This saves me the trouble of walking out of the hospital with a cast on the wrong arm or, worse yet, on my toe.

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