Doug Pinkham, president of the Public Affairs Council, wants a truce on the use of the word “war” in the political discourse.
In his March 6 “Dangerous Metaphors” blog, Pinkham notes the evolution of the word war to frame public policy from the war of poverty to war on drugs to war on terror. While those uses attempted to rally Americans around a cause, current usage divides people along strict ideological lines and spurs extreme partisanship.
Pinkham wrote that President Obama has been accused on waging war on “America, jobs, the economy, small/big business, gun owners, energy, religion and even Christmas trees.” (Obama dropped president Bush’s war on terror to the somewhat clumsy and less militaristic “enduring struggle against terrorism and extremism.”)
Differences in social policy become “cultural wars,” while differences in economic policy are “class warfare.” Most recently, Republicans have been accused of waging a “war on science” and the conception flap gets framed as a “war on women.”
Pinkham believes if America is going to tackle big national problems, politicians must top dividing people into friends and enemies. The use of the war metaphor polarizes views, demonizes opponents and splits Americans into “us” vs. “them,” according to Pinkham. It also cheapens the definition of the real thing, which is combat.
The PAC president sees a need for “rhetorical disarmament.” He backs “lively debates, heated discussions and arguments,” but wants violent metaphors scrapped. Pinkham calls for a new anti-war movement and gives a shout-out to John Lennon’s classic, “All we are saying is give peace a chance.”
Amen to that.