My trusty Random House Webster’s College Dictionary lists no less than 15 definitions based on the word, “politics.”
A friend whose interest in words and writing and all things politic (”political: as in the body politic”; Webster) sent me an analysis by nationally syndicated New York Times columnist Paul Krugman about how and why the refusal to wear a mask during the COVID-19 virus swipe through the world has become a political thing.
Now, I know that conservatives who read a lot and know Krugman’s work are already dismissing anything he said as being politicized (”to give a political character or bias.” - W.) Or at least politically correct (”marked by or adhering to a typically progressive orthodoxy on issues.” - W.) Which is to say, Krugman is considered by some on the right to be a communist, socialist, democrat-loving, lefty lib purveyor of “fake news.”
In fact, he is a respected writer about political economy (”the science of economics.” – W.)
He wrote that wearing a mask in public is an expression of respect for the consideration of others’ health and emotional comfort. But such politesse (”…. formal politeness; courtesy.” – W.) is seen by many conservatives as a slap in the face to those who believe in freedom and conservative ideas of personal liberty; a battle flag, of sorts. As an act of defiance against “creeping socialism,” some are rudely refusing to mask up, America.
Krugman takes the argument to another context; it is about manners, more than politics, but manners are now political.
Yes, manners are about politeness, which shares the root word for politics. And while some on the right have softened their rhetoric since The Don has left the building, if not the stage, they are fighting back by attacking politeness as a show of liberal, progressive weakness and ineptitude.
I don’t know when “progressive” became a bad word among Republicans. I always liked to think progressive meant moving ahead, instead of backward.
Anyway, you can’t be nice and be a defender of American values, is the message. Such a “nice” approach to governing is a threat to democracy.
Some who refuse to wear masks in public are acting out of frustration and desperation because they cannot deal with the stresses of an increasingly diverse and complex world. They want to narrow the definition of democracy to whatever serves their agenda, including voter suppression.
Republicans are busy redrafting voter rules to curtail the convenience of registration and casting ballots by those who are likely Democrat voters. It’s a baldly corrupt attempt to — well, I think the term is, “rig the system.” It’s also rightly named voter suppression, which is a bad thing. Or used to be.
The irony of all this is that the post-election Republican narrative is a form of reverse political correctness, which I believe is the root of all right-wing anger and resistance to the inevitability of change.
They reject the fact that their candidate lost the election because he did not lead so much as serve as the soundtrack of their angry denial of realities, abandoning any pretenses of civility, and packaging it as a patriotic political stance.
In truth, it is nothing more than a con job to market and create a cash flow for the growth of wealth and power and national status. Rudeness can be very popular in the service of a Nationalist agenda. It’s not even a Republican move: Donations are not to be donated to the GOP, but only to the Trump PAC. They’re falling for it.
The word “politics” has seven entries in Webster’s book. Among them are, ‘the science or art of political government . . . political affairs … methods or maneuvers … political principles or opinions … the use of strategy or intrigue in obtaining power, control, or status. – W.’
The definition in Webster’s book that applies here is the one for “play politics”: A. to engage in political intrigue. B. to deal with people in an opportunistic or manipulative way, as for job advancement.
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Dean Minnich, who retired from a career in journalism and served two terms as a county commissioner, writes from Westminster. His column runs Thursdays. Readers may respond with letters to the editor or directly to the writer by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.