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JP Grace: Euphemisms mask realities of sexual politics

Jul. 08, 2013 @ 11:05 PM

Euphemisms: We Americans seem to major in them. As someone who likes his political realities expressed as plainly and simply as possible, I happen to believe that, on balance, euphemisms are a harmful dodge.

Here are a couple euphemisms that are currently playing key roles in hot political issues:

"Same-sex marriage" and "women's reproductive health."

In the first instance, what's really at issue is "marriage redefinition." That crystal-clear statement of the changing reality in our country, however, would not "play well" in public opinion polls. Might even have made things turn out differently in the U.S. Supreme Court.

I post occasionally on various news sites, such as The Washington Post, Slate and NBC's First Read. The gatekeepers of Slate have three times reviewed my very cordially expressed objection to the use of "same-sex marriage" and my proposing as a substitute "marriage redefinition," and three times running they have obviously found my post "objectionable" and have not allowed it.

Funny how hard realities can make people "uncomfortable" -- and then simply by calling things by their true name you become "homophobic" or "a hater."

Marriage, however, has been from time immemorial understood as an intimate union of a man and a woman for purposes of creating a family and also providing a legitimate outlet for sexual intercourse.

Same-sex partners, obviously, do not fit that definition. Hence, for gays and lesbians to be "married," they need to have society change the definition of marriage to be more "inclusive." They rally endlessly behind their call for "marriage equality." The phrase "marriage redefinition," on the other hand, they shun like the plague.

I haven't seen any new definitions being bandied about, probably because they would be seen as "needlessly controversial." Nonetheless, if we are to stare reality in the face, we do indeed need to come up with a new definition that can be edited into the next press run of our nation's dictionaries.

Here's a draft: Marriage is a state-sanctioned union of any two adult persons for the purpose of sharing sexual intimacy and qualifying for survivor benefits.

Moving on to "women's reproductive health," let me just ask: What in the world is "healthy" about aborting a child in the womb? The procedure obviously ends one human life and in many cases traumatizes another, that of the aborting mother.

Rabbis, ministers, priests and therapists all are familiar with the after-effects of abortion on women, the years of self reproach, second guessing, self-hatred and depression.

Clearly, these after-effects are not universal. Some women indeed manage to "move on" after an abortion and regain their equilibrium. Many, however, do not.

For this and other reasons those who support a woman's right to abortion call their movement "pro-choice," rather than "pro-abortion rights." And they reject the label of their opponents -- "pro-life," preferring to brand their opponents as "anti-choice."

Social policy, then, often hinges on how each side wages its "war of words."

If one side can sell its euphemism to the public better than the other side manages to sell its hard statement of reality, well, that's how the country goes. Thus do we become a nation victimized by the watchwords of political correctness -- the ultimate reality dodge.

John Patrick Grace formerly covered healthcare and religion for The Greensboro (N.C.) News and Record. He is now a book editor and publisher based in downtown Huntington and teaches the Life Writing Class.

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