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Jonathan Kraut: Ancient wars

Democratic Voices

Posted: July 13, 2009 10:36 p.m.
Updated: July 14, 2009 4:55 a.m.
There was a time in the past when a continental power rose to world dominance.

That nation was divided between two distinct factions, who were toward each other, aggressive, divisive, and rivals at every level, save physical violence.

The Hu dynastic line was the more conservative of the two. Hu wielded power in great part due to their historic control of gold and trade routes.

Their clan members were extremely dedicated and loyal to their leaders.

The other countrymen, aligned with the Wot dynasty, vastly outnumbered Hu, but were less disciplined.

Wot clansmen were more generally more independent and were difficult to direct.

Rather than solving problems facing their countrymen, the clan's disputes centered upon undermining and belittling their rivals.

After more than a hundred years of feuding, their adversarial attacks had only increased, and the business of state was rarely considered.

As you can imagine, timely, sound political decisions came to a halt, and effective governance became impossible.

Objectively speaking, both clans were patriotic and loyal, but were at odds because each clan had its own distinct dialect.

While their language originated from a common source, regional and cultural differences made the country a nation of two tongues.

Ironically, the Wot believed that the Hu understood them clearly. And similarly, the Hu were under the impression that the Wot comprehended their terminology.

In reality, it was the similarity of spoken language that led to the misconceptions held by the opposing factions.

By now you've probably seen some parallels between these two mythical ancient clans that remind us of the Democrats and Republicans.

While the Hu-Wot conflict started in ancient fantasy, a similar battle continues to boil every day in America.

I hope it's no surprise that the cultures I refer to are in fact the Democrats, who speak in terms of "what" and the Republicans who focus on "who." Allow me to illustrate.

If you carefully listen to President Obama and other Democrats, you will notice a focus on "what" needs to be done and "what" we must do. This is the Wot dialect of Democrats.

The premise of President Obama's speech before a University of Cairo audience just a month ago was dominated by "what we need to do," saying, "That is what I will try to do today - to speak the truth as best I can, humbled by the task before us, and firm in my belief that the interests we share as human beings are far more powerful than the forces that drive us apart."

Later in the speech, the president ignored the persons behind Iran's aggression, focusing on the process of remedy. "The question now is not what Iran is against, but rather what future it wants to build."

Conversely, President Bush's speeches were riddled with characterizing and attacking individuals. Bush focused not on what to do or what was done, but on who was doing it.

Right after the 9-11 attacks, President Bush gave one of the most significant and revealing speeches his tenure.

He devoted his message to who was involved with the attacks, ignoring what the attacks were about: "The search is underway for those who are behind these evil acts. I've directed the full resources of our intelligence and law enforcement communities to find those responsible and to bring them to justice. We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them."

I believe the ideological focus of "who" versus "what" may be a key to understanding our impasses in Sacramento, Washington and American politics in general.

Republican rhetoric is thematic with personal attacks and praises. Comments like those "who are tax-and-spend liberals," "who want to harm us" and "who would weaken our nation and embolden terrorists" are typical. Rarely is such language heard from Democrats.

Democratic speech patterns seem aligned with describing "what." Phrases like "what we need to do" and "what has happened" are very much a part of the Democratic dialect.

Republicans seem to omit process, while preferring to align with good and against evil.

Like two ships passing each other in the night, Democrats are riveted on process while minimizing those who stand in their way, and Republicans identify who is good and who is bad, refusing to participate in mundane governmental processes requiring cooperation and compromise.

Frustrated, deaf and blind, neither group sees, hears or understands the other.

I believe all of us should acknowledge the power of our words. Who we must work with is each other. And what we must do is forget our dialectic inadequacies so we can bring good governance back to the home we all share.

Jonathan Kraut is a Fair Oaks Ranch resident and serves in the Democratic Party of the SCV, on the SCV Human Relations Forum, and the SCV Interfaith Council. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal or other organizations. "Democratic Voices" appears Tuesdays in The Signal and rotates among several Democratic writers.


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