"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me" is an old verse that just isn't true. Indeed, words can hurt, break up marriages, destroy careers, and defeat political candidates.
Even words out of one's own mouth can be destructive. We recall such bloopers as presidential candidate George Romney self-destructing his 1968 presidential candidacy with the word "brainwashing," or President Gerald Ford losing in 1976 after saying "there is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe," or President Richard Nixon pleading "I am not a crook."
In the fast-moving battleground of the Internet, words used as epithets can be powerful missiles to hurl at an enemy. Among the arrows with poison tips designed to slay a political enemy are the words "racist," "bigot, "fascist," "nativist," and "extremist."
The spin artists, now a fixture in modern politics, tell us what we are supposed to think about what we just saw, such as a presidential debate. They use word power to set the parameters of political debate.
More insidious are the words that are redefined to stifle political discourse. As Humpty Dumpty told Alice in Wonderland, "When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less."
Alice demurred: "The question is whether you can make words mean different things." Humpty Dumpty countered, "The question is which is to be master; that's all."
The word definers who choose to be master frustrate rational debate by redefining good words into bad words, mouthing them with a sneer until they become a smear.
"Protect" is an obviously good word. The dictionary defines it as preservation from injury or harm. Most of us fervently believe in protecting things that are precious to us.
We all want to protect our homes from being invaded by a robber. Parents want to protect their children from predators in person or on the Internet, as well as from immoral curricula in public schools.
We want to protect the institution of marriage so we can have a stable society based on the family, and so children can grow up with a mother and a father. Most of us want to protect innocent, unborn babies from knife and scissors. We believe in protecting our country and our flag. Our soldiers fight to protect us from foreign enemies. Our police stand guard to protect us from thugs on the street.
We want to protect our liberties from overreaching bureaucrats and from supremacist judges who pretend to "evolve" the U.S. Constitution. We want to protect the Pledge of Allegiance and the Ten Commandments from the lawsuits that try to ban them from schools, courthouses and parks.
We want to protect our borders from being invaded by illegal immigrants who violate our laws. We want to protect Americans from illegal drugs that are smuggled across our border.
Protectionism is an acknowledged virtue in all areas of life - except one. It is a semantic curiosity that, somehow, the word "protectionism" has been placed in the globalist quiver of arrows to shoot down anyone who tries to protect the good jobs that have enabled millions to rise from poverty into the middle class and live the American dream.
It's time that we denounce the semantic scalpers who have perverted the word "protectionism." It's time to say, yes, we do want to protect American jobs and industries from global competition with slave labor, inhumane working conditions, and countries that use the profits on their sales to us to build a military force to threaten us.
Yes, we do want to protect American industries from competition with foreign countries that engage in unfair trade practices, dishonestly manipulate their currency, steal our intellectual property, and then bring their products into our stores without paying the same border fees that U.S. products must pay when we sell to foreign countries.
Yes, we do want to protect American workers against the efforts of globalists to locate manufacturing jobs in Asia where people work for 30 cents an hour. Even the Wall Street Journal-NBC poll reports that Republican voters, by a nearly 2-to-1 margin, believe that free trade is bad for the U.S. economy because it costs jobs.
Yes, we do want to protect Americans from the low-wage, non-English-speaking Mexican truck drivers whom President George W. Bush is allowing on our highways. Yes, we do want to protect Americans from the poisonous pet food, seafood, toothpaste and toys that come from the People's Republic of China.
Yes, we do want to protect Americans from the foreign tribunals that rule against the United States, such as the World Trade Organization that has ruled against the U.S. in 40 out of 47 cases and now is demanding that we repeal the U.S. law against Internet gambling. Yes, we do want to protect U.S. sovereignty and wealth from the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea, which seeks to control all the seas and the minerals under them.
It's time we reclaim the words "protect" and "protectionism" and proudly say, yes, we believe in protecting the United States and U.S. workers against unfair competition, unfair trade agreements, and unfair foreign tribunals.
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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