Did you know that the word, “manufacture” is from the Latin and literally means: “to make by hand?” Of course, the term has long since been connected with things made by machines. The word no longer means what it meant.
Language—any language—is like that. “Brave” used to mean “cowardly.” Really. And “nice?” Well, it originally meant, “not to know,” or another way to say someone was ignorant.
Etymologists—those who study word origins and meanings—tell us that words change for several reasons: generalization—specialization—degeneration, to name a few. Now, apparently, we must add politicization to the list of word-changers. Most of the time, such linguistic morphing is subtle and hardly noticed. But right now before our eyes, a very good word is becoming something quite unlike what it originally meant.
Reconciliation—a word rich in nuance, meaning, and historic impact; a term that has for centuries indicated the removal of barriers and the restoration of relationship—may be rendered virtually meaningless soon. What is now being planned for the whole health care fix in this country, all other avenues having failed those who just know they know better than the rest of us, will likely come to pass in some form via a political process now known famously as Reconciliation.
George Orwell would be proud. What once meant the end of hostility and all parties coming together in good will, soon will likely stand for the raw exercise of party and power politics. And in the process it will leave in its wake anything but the fruit of real reconciliation. In fact, all indications are that we are on the verge of entering a fierce period of vituperative political conflict—one even worse than what we have recently seen.
Yes, I understand that, in this case, the word is being used in an accounting sense. But when you “reconcile” your bank statement, isn’t that also called “balancing?” Where’s the balance in such a political maneuver?
Of course, the idea—and in fact, the practice—of reconciliation in matters of legislation has been around for more than 35 years. And the process was used in the past by Republicans, giving some credence to the charge of hypocrisy now being hurled by the Democrats. But a closer look at matters handled in the past via the Byrd-rule suggests that nothing prior even comes close to comparing to what is being suggested and orchestrated now—a takeover of one-sixth of the U.S. economy.
It’s all part of that “fundamental transformation of America” that was being talked about in 2008.
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