Progressive. Queer. Feminist. Opinionated.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Is Katrina a terrorist?

It's odd how the lexicon of the American people has changed over the past few years. These are subtle changes I'm talking about, but changes nonetheless. For example, today if you say "pro-family," it almost always means "anti-gay." This change was brought about by the conservative machine - because, really, who wants to be anti-family? Very tricky, Conservatives!

Anyway, I came across this CNN article the other day: Katrina the Terrorist.

The gist of the article is that a guy who was in charge of the FBI's international counterterrorism cases in Washington moved to New Orleans a few months back. He was there when Katrina hit, and now he's the special agent in charge for New Orleans. When he first moved to NOLA, the first thing he did was figure out how terrorists would attack if they did (ironically, he did consider the breach of the levees - wanna reword your statement, George?).

Anyway, there were a few parts of this article that really grabbed my attention.

"There's only one terrorist around here," said the Louisiana National Guardsman, as he paced outside the New Orleans Convention Center. "And her name is Katrina."


The city, he soon discovered, might just as well have been hit by a terrorist attack. "For New Orleans, the net result is the same. Clearly the tourism industry getting knocked out -- that happened. The only target of opportunity that didn't happen was sinking a ship in the river.

"What we were preparing for, relative to a terrorist attack, had been handed to us by Mother Nature." [link]

Now, on a very basic level, I think this is ridiculous. A terrorist uses force or violence to bring about fear. I highly doubt that "mother nature" or whatever wind, rain, heat patterns that brought Katrina into existence were sitting around thinking, "Ah hah! A big hurricane! That shall bring fear, and then those pesky Americans will have to listen to our beliefs!"

But, in another way, this use of the word is fringing on correct - in American language, you now use terrorist to explain anything that is bad and "anti-American." Think about O'Reilly calling the ACLU a terrorist faction.

And this idea is terrifying to me! We've let another word go to strange and uncomfortable places.

It makes me think of this argument I hear online a lot. First of all, you need to understand that I follow the fans of a few shows and books online, engaging in what "fen" (plural for fan) call "fandom." You hear this following argument a lot in online situations when people (often young people) are joking around: someone says the word "gay" to describe something they don't like, another person yells at them for this homophobic statement, and the first person says, "Oh, well, you see, I don't mean gay as in homosexual. A lot of people use the word gay to express displeasure over something, so I'm not using the word gay in a way that relates to homosexuality." I've also heard this argument for the word "retarded" and other words. I'd provide examples, but I don't want to pull this blog into the depths of the fandom abyss.

I don't know how often you guys have run into this argument, but I see it a lot. And suffice to say, this bothers me. No, imaginary person, gay means homosexual. You've been taken in by some pseudo-intellectual argument that numbs people to the importance of language.

I can use the same argument with the Katrina link above. The hurricane was not some evil force, Mother Nature isn't out to get us, and it's really improper to try to call an act of nature "terrorism." It makes me really uncomfortable to think about how many people read that CNN article and didn't think about it.

Have we just lost touch with language?


Anonymous Johnicholas said...

I have the same trouble with the word "post-modern".

"modern" used to mean "contemporary" - is it really that valuable to destroy that meaning? and what are you going to call "now" later?

7:54 PM

Anonymous thelatinist said...

Post-modernism is an intellectual movement which followed on the heals of the early 20th century modernist movement (which rejected traditional forms in art and philosophy). You need to stop being so literal.

8:54 PM


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