We have a word problem in America that, spelled out, may predict our downfall. We simply can't bring ourselves to define what "is" is. Herewith, a few recent examples:
Is Islam a religion of "peace," as we're repeatedly told, or are some of its constituents Jew-hating, American-killing fanatics bent on destroying Israel, the United States and all its infidels, especially hip-hop artist Eminem, as evidence seems to support?
Is the Catholic Church's current crisis of sexual assaults against minors an epidemic of "pedophilia," or is it a problem of homosexuals in various stages of arrested emotional development hitting on teen-age boys, as the evidence increasingly seems to suggest?
Are we fighting a war against "terrorism," as we're told ad nauseum, or are we really fighting a war specifically against radical Islamists, as some have pointed out in recent weeks, defying the political-correctness fascists and inviting applause from Americans desperate for truth?
Although some pundits already may have put into play the notion that terrorism is a tool of our enemy rather than The Enemy, CNN's Lou Dobbs ran the ball all the way across the goal line with his recent comment on the TV show he hosts, "Lou Dobbs Moneyline."
"The government and media for the past nine months have called this a war against terror. So have we here," said Dobbs. "But terror is not the enemy. It is what the enemy wants to achieve. So on this broadcast, we are making a change in the interests of clarity and honesty.
"The enemies in this war are radical Islamists who argue all non-believers in their faith must be killed. They are called Islamists. That's why we are abandoning the phrase, War Against Terror. Let us be clear. This is not a war against Muslims or Islam. It is a war against Islamists and all who support them. If ever there were a time for clarity, it is now."
Dobbs caused quite a stir with his remarks, not because he's wrong but because truth is so rare. For months, we've been dancing around the problem of radical Islamists, fearful of offending decent Muslims, many of whom are neighbors and fellow citizens. But the truth, once stated, is obvious. And axiomatic to that truth is this: We can't win a war against an enemy we refuse to name.
Likewise the Catholic Church can't solve a problem it refuses to acknowledge. In the days following an earlier column I wrote about the church's pedophilia problem, many wrote to point out that most of the victims of sexual assault and molestation were adolescent boys between the ages of 12 and 14. Pedophilia is defined as sexual advances toward prepubescent children. Correction noted.
As the mother of a teen-age son, it is easy for me to view the sexual molestation of a teen as assault against a child. But again, words matter and definitions are important.
Given that the majority of defiling priests made advances on postpubescent boys, the Church might need to examine the possibility that they have a homosexual problem, rather than a pedophiliac problem.
You can't cure a disease without a proper diagnosis, and you can't win a war without naming the enemy. As Dobbs said, at no time in our history has clarity been more important. Which is why President Bush needs to ramp up his vocabulary to address the magnitude of this problem and our commitment to solving it.
Nine months after Sept. 11 -even as we talk of expanding our war effort to 60 countries -Bush is still talking about "evil" and the "war on terrorism." These terms have begun to sound empty and simplistic. Yes, yes, "they" are evil, but who are "they"? They are radical Islamists who are fanatically bound to a dogma that justifies their killing us.
"They" have an identity; let's name them. And terrorism is a nasty tool -murder by any other name. Let's call it murder then.
If we don't start calling a spade a spade soon, predictably the backlash of American resentment will grow toward a group (Muslims and Islam) that may not be deserving of such broad-brush contempt. Just as not all priests are sexual predators, clearly not all Muslims are sympathetic to terrorism. But in the absence of clearly defined truth, it becomes increasingly problematic to tell the good guys from the bad.