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I am retired from government, law enforcement, politics and all other pointless endeavors. I eat when I am hungry and sleep when I am tired.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


It's too easy to make fun of Caroline Kennedy's pigeon English. It's enough to remember that it runs in the family. Just as her uncle Ted could give no particular reason for running for President, Caroline has naught to justify an appointment to the United States Senate. She might as well respond, hey I'm a Kennedy it's, like, ah, what we do.

But why is it that Caroline Kennedy who has had the benefit of a fine education, can't express herself? We live in a post elocutory age. The practice of forming your words with a care to their effect on the ear or the spirit has no place in the age of the common man. Any attempt to convey your meaning in an artful way is seen as artificial and therefore lacking in sincerity. The last time I heard what used to be called oratory was via a speech by Senator Guy Vander Jagt. To hear his booming voice, his mastery of timing and imagery was a privileged. He was a Senior Congressman from a Michigan where constituents still expected their leaders to speak better than they did. They expected legislators and other leaders to speak in elevated language with clear, elegant diction. All that ended with the cult of authenticity and the social realist elevation of the inarticulate as the mantle of truth. Brando replaced Gielgud.

There is another reason why a woman who comes as near nobility as one gets in America speaks as though English was her second language. Her and our ears have been conditioned by electronic media for so long that we have unconsciously begun to mimic their cadence. That is, we are so used to hearing speech broadcast without pause, that we unwittingly adopt this mode of communication when speaking with each other. On radio and television, actors, salespeople, news people, game show hosts etc. fill every precious second with their "message." The young, who are essentially raised by television, take this for actual speech, not realizing that it's all written out beforehand and delivered by hucksters. Naturally, the young feel their own speech to be inadequate. Their only recourse is to babble as fast as they can, filling in the gaps in their ability to string words together fast enough with verbal ticks like, like, you know, and ah. Many compound this by speaking in a monotone, or finishing every sentence in the tone of a question in the manner of Bedouins. They don't speak in sentences so much as stream of conscious riffs. One gets the impression that to pause to collect one's thoughts, or for emphasis, would be considered bad manners.

This business is more than slang or affectation. It is nothing short of the degradation of the ability of the young to reason clearly through language and communicate. Language without inflection or precision or subtlety is incapable of expressing thought beyond the mundane. It's now possible to succeed in our society while unable to explain one's self at all, as the example of our President attests. We have even reached a point where Barack Obama is considered an eloquent man while communicating little and obscuring much. In fact we are about to be presided over by a man who communicated nothing more than a mere feeling during the whole campaign.

I'm not sure how this can be put right. In order for the young to regain their ability to communicate with grace and precision they must first overcome the cult of leveling that mocks the art of language, and denies language as art. Elocution class anyone?

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