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Blog: Words Matter

To successfully debate the problems facing our country, we have to agree to solid definitions of our words. Language is the expression of our ideas and when expressing these ideas, words matter.

When it comes to the issue of gun control, I am agnostic. I see the effects when these tools fall into the wrong hands. We cannot always fix crazy, but guns certainly allow someone who has somehow detached from society to do more damage in a shorter amount of time. It is also clear to me that guns feature prominently in our society and our culture. One can own a gun or like to shoot and not be crazy or a criminal.

In a way, the issue of gun violence is symbolic of everything that is currently wrong in American politics. Both sides are so invested in being “right” that they are deaf to what the other side has to say. However, like most issues, the solutions will not be found on the extremes, but in the middle.

To me, nothing symbolizes the pro-gun extreme more than the NRA. Therefore, it was not surprising to me that their response to the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut was to “not budge an inch toward discussion of gun control.” (1) Instead, they blamed violent video games and movies. Apparently, guns do not kill people, the mass media does.

Given my feelings towards the NRA, I would not think that there is much that I could agree with their Executive Vice President, Wayne LaPierre. However, in his response to President Obama’s second inaugural speech, I found something. He was not making a point that I agree with, but in his argument he stated “Words do have meaning, Mr. President. And those meanings are absolute...”(2)  I could not agree more.

Unfortunately, he breaks his own rule with the conclusion to the sentence: “especially when it comes to our Bill of Rights.” ABSOLUTE is a word that has meaning: “free from imperfection; complete; perfect” (3) The rights of the first ten amendments to our Constitution are not “complete.” For example, the first amendment ensures that “Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” However, any middle school scholar will tell you that you this amendment does not give you the right to yell “fire” in a crowded theater. Also, printing lies about a person will subject the media to libel law suits.

The misuse of words extends beyond the gun control debate. For example, the President is often described as “Socialist” by some on the right wing. Socialism is defined as “a theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole.” (4)

Under this definition, the government needs to take control of private industry and in 2009 Obama threw GM “a lifeline of $50 billion in exchange for 61% of its shares.” (5) However, by the following year the government was already making plans to privatize its ownership. As of last month its ownership was down to 32%. Current plans call for the government to be completely divested by next year. (6) In the words of The Economist, the President is “A gambler, yes. An interventionist, yes. A socialist, no.” (7)

Obamacare is another policy that is often cited as proof that the President is a “Socialist.” However, even before this reform the government paid “43% to 46% of all healthcare costs, mainly through Medicare, Medicaid, and the armed services.  When Obamacare is fully implemented, it is expected this amount will increase to 49.2%.” (8) This is 50.8% short of the government controlling all health care spending. Additionally, healthcare reform does not force doctors to become government employees or eliminate private health insurance. In fact, it forces more people to become customers of private health insurance.

The Debt Ceiling is another issue where meanings are often mangled. Raising this ceiling simply allows the government to borrow the money to pay for spending that Congress has already authorized. Yet, Republican Senator Mike Lee said “I would vote against raising the national debt ceiling. Again, this is about mortgaging the future of unborn generations of Americans. It's a form of taxation without representation. I don't think we can do that.” (9)

We should not confuse the mechanism for paying for our spending with the spending itself. If I find that my household budget is out of whack, I cannot fix the problem by stopping the payments on my credit cards. I either have to find a job that gives me more income or I have to reduce my spending. The debt ceiling is nothing more than our country’s credit card statement.

Violence, health care and our national debt are just some of the important issues that are facing our county. To successfully debate these problems and compromise on solutions, we have to start by agreeing to solid definitions of our words. Language is the expression of our ideas and when expressing these ideas, words matter.

(1) http://www.cnn.com/2012/12/21/us/connecticut-school-shooting/index.html

(2) http://www.cnn.com/2013/01/23/politics/nra-response/index.html?hpt=hp_c2

(3) http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/absolute?s=t

(4) http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/socialism?s=t

(5) and (7) http://www.economist.com/node/16846494

(6) http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/business/companies/general_motors_corporation/index.html

(8) http://www.forbes.com/sites/carolynmcclanahan/2012/08/28/is-obamacare-a-government-takeover-of-medicine/

(9) http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/m/mike_lee.html

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Brian Dzyak February 08, 2013 at 07:40 PM
"Misinformation and propaganda can be used by Conservatives or Liberals." - Carl Peterson III I've merely quoted the authors of the Constitution. Are you accusing them of spreading misinformation and propaganda?
Brian Dzyak February 08, 2013 at 07:45 PM
"To find examples of a "well regulated" militia, you need to look no further than the National Guard. Unless activated for war, they remain under the control of the Governors. During peace time they train and maintain readiness." - Carl Peterson III Great. Now how about those 60 million gun owners who are NOT part of the National Guard. The Second Amendment CLEARLY places gun ownership within the context of a well regulate Militia. Why aren't ANY of these so-called "responsible gun owners" members of their local National Guard units? All of you hillbillies got the "right" to have a gun per the SCOTUS HELLER decision. Now where are YOU to live up to the first half of the Second Amendment to give the rest of us our "well regulated Militia" to provide "security for a free State"?
The Teller of Truth February 08, 2013 at 10:02 PM
Here! Here! I second that motion! Lol!
The Teller of Truth February 08, 2013 at 10:03 PM
LIKE!
Brian Dzyak February 08, 2013 at 10:22 PM
Yes, I'm still waiting for an explanation of examples of when I was "being such a jerk." None have come forth yet.
Vic February 09, 2013 at 01:14 AM
Well, Brian, after re-reading all of your comments, I'm thinking that your are in the wrong forum. Even if the few of us that are commenting here decided to completely agree with it would be of no consequence to anyone. Instead of debating us "children" here on the Patch, maybe you could take your argument to your congressman who is paid to be the voice of his constituants. And when you do, make sure you tell him that his "pwecious widdle gunnie wunnies" need to be taken away until everyone who wants to own a gun joins a militia. Tell him that the efforts of the current government are "moronic" and what they are discussing is the stupidest thing you have ever heard. And then if he dares to disagree with you, call him a two year old. Truly, you are the most reasonable man around and certainly NOT a jerk, so going directly to your government rep will serve you well.
Carl Petersen III February 09, 2013 at 06:26 AM
Brian Dzyak 11:46 am on Friday, February 8, 2013 "The Second Amendment CLEARLY places gun ownership within the context of a well regulate Militia. Why aren't ANY of these so-called "responsible gun owners" members of their local National Guard units?" . . "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." Where in this amendment does it say that arms are ONLY for a well regulated militia. Do you think that the Founding Fathers meant to exclude hunting? Do you think that the settlers were meant to protect themselves without the benefit of guns? Were farmers not supposed to protect their land and animals from wild animals?
Carl Petersen III February 09, 2013 at 06:30 AM
Brian Dzyak 2:22 pm on Friday, February 8, 2013 "Yes, I'm still waiting for an explanation of examples of when I was "being such a jerk." None have come forth yet." . . Try this one on for size... . . Brian Dzyak 11:46 am on Friday, February 8, 2013 "All of you hillbillies got the "right" to have a gun per the SCOTUS HELLER decision. Now where are YOU to live up to the first half of the Second Amendment to give the rest of us our "well regulated Militia" to provide "security for a free State"?" . . Hillbillies?
Carl Petersen III February 09, 2013 at 06:40 AM
from http://lakeelsinore-wildomar.patch.com/articles/newport-beach-doctor-gunned-down-by-lake-elsinore-man-police-say The Teller of Truth 2:44 pm on Tuesday, January 29, 2013 "...just remember that the 'gun' didn't kill this man, another man did......." . . Brian: you really think that he agrees with what you have to say?
Carl Petersen III February 09, 2013 at 02:05 PM
Constant Comment 5 hours ago "He has already said in other threads how his swelled numbers have made him king of the patch." . . Cut and paste that quote. You won't be able to, because it doesn't exist. So I expose your Teller login as actually opposing Brian's positions, so you have to resort to this login. I'd do the same for this login too, but all of those posts got delete along with your account.
Brian Dzyak February 09, 2013 at 04:21 PM
I have taken my argument to my Congressman, thank you very much. :)
Brian Dzyak February 09, 2013 at 04:25 PM
Are you referring to me? I can't tell. If so, I am merely stating a position and using facts and cited history to support my arguments, not trying to "boost numbers" or any such juvenile thing. I mean, if more posts gets me a discount from something, then maybe it would be worth it! :) As far as "so called," here is a link to my book if you're interested in joining us in the film industry. :) http://www.randomhouse.com/book/44440/what-i-really-want-to-do-on-set-in-hollywood-by-brian-dzyak/9780823099535/
Brian Dzyak February 09, 2013 at 04:33 PM
"Where in this amendment does it say that arms are ONLY for a well regulated militia. Do you think that the Founding Fathers meant to exclude hunting? Do you think that the settlers were meant to protect themselves without the benefit of guns? Were farmers not supposed to protect their land and animals from wild animals?" Fair question. Show me the words "Hunting" "Self-Defense" and "Target Practice" in the Second Amendment. Point being, using The Second Amendment as justification for anything beyond national defense is factually and historically incorrect. The Second Amendment ONLY speaks to "the security of a free State," the word "State" being used to placate Virginia at the time in order to permit their local Militias to continue "protection" of whites from slaves. But the intent is very clear that Article One, Section 8, Line 12 was meant to prevent a standing military and the Second Amendment was meant to provide the means for We the People to defend this nation, our government, and to provide a system of checks and balances to prevent any one State from going rogue. Perhaps We the People DO have a "right to have guns to hunt, etc" but it is not the Second Amendment which extends that right. The HELLER decision does that, but incorrectly by ignoring the intent of the Second Amendment and essentially rewriting it. If you wish a "right" for guns for those other things, the Second Amendment is not the vehicle to use.
Carl Petersen III February 09, 2013 at 11:37 PM
Brian Dzyak 8:33 am on Saturday, February 9, 2013 "Perhaps We the People DO have a "right to have guns to hunt, etc" but it is not the Second Amendment which extends that right." . . I made that same point in my blog. What I am also saying is that the second amendment does not exclude the use of guns for these other purposes. There was no reason to specifically mention hunting as that is how people got their food. They weren't exactly able to run over to the local Ralphs.
Carl Petersen III February 09, 2013 at 11:38 PM
Brian Dzyak 8:33 am on Saturday, February 9, 2013 "The HELLER decision does that, but incorrectly by ignoring the intent of the Second Amendment and essentially rewriting it." . . As the Supreme court is permitted to do.
Carl Petersen III February 10, 2013 at 12:25 AM
Constant Comment 14 minutes ago "Quite plain & simple is the fact that Carl Petersen III is really Kevin Petersen." . . I know in the Conservative Bubble, you just get to make up facts, but at least try to make up ones that make sense. My posting history goes back to February 28, 2012. http://northridge.patch.com/users/carl-petersen-iii/comments?page=183 Care to explain why someone with a long history such as yours goes back to January 22, 2013. http://lakeelsinore-wildomar.patch.com/users/constant-comment-a47e69df/comments?page=11 And by the way, unlike you I do not hide behind aliases. I am using my real name.
Brian Dzyak February 10, 2013 at 12:53 AM
"Guns are not going to simply disappear. Any solution has to recognize that there are legitimate reasons for having a firearm beyond militias." - CP Such as? Our right to have a safe society where first graders are not blown away supersedes the "right" of someone to keep a GUN because they think it's a fun hobby. Again, if we adhere to the mandate of the Second Amendment, those gun nuts who absolutely feel the burning need to keep their security bwanky gunnie wunnies will get to keep them just like Linus as he sucks his thumb. But as a condition for keeping that useless security bwankie, that paranoid gun nut must join and train with a local well regulated Militia in preparation to defend this nation in times of war. It's not a difficult concept, which makes me wonder why so-called "Patriots" who claim to love this nation are so adamantly opposed to it. Are they truly Patriots who love the Constitution and this nation as they claim or just gigantic pussies trying to make themselves feel like big tough guys behind the barrel of a gun?
Brian Dzyak February 10, 2013 at 01:01 AM
The keys problem is mental health & how it's not being properly addressed. The Laws worked when the Sandy Hook shooter tried to buy a gun. He didn't want to fill out the proper paperwork & was denied the purchase by DICKs sporting goods. The law worked. Instead he killed his mother & stole her guns. She should have had them properly secured. If she was still alive, I'd say she should be charged with these deaths for not having them properly secured. It would send a strong message if people were charged with the crime that their gun was used in regardless if it was someone else who committed it." - Dave Peters Funny that I suggested a similar thing just a day or two ago and was called irrational for it. Punishments are all dandy after the fact, but it REQUIRES death to occur before "the market" "corrects" to punish the guilty. What we need is a truly brutal threat to PREVENT any killings from happening in the first place. Such as, if YOUR gun is stolen and then used to kill another person, you get the death penalty by firing squad with your gun that you allowed to be stolen. If you sell a weapon without fullproof background checks to ensure that the buyer is truly sane and responsible, then the seller dies by firing squad using that weapon. This threat should be sufficient to compel gun owners to go out of their way to be responsible...or to just give up their guns altogether.
Brian Dzyak February 10, 2013 at 01:07 AM
"I made that same point in my blog. What I am also saying is that the second amendment does not exclude the use of guns for these other purposes. There was no reason to specifically mention hunting as that is how people got their food. They weren't exactly able to run over to the local Ralphs." - CP No, they didn't ...at the time. But now there is absolutely no justification in 2013 for anyone NEEDING a GUN to provide their primary food source. I hear anecdotal claims to the contrary but have yet to see definitive proof that significant numbers of Americans will starve to death without guns. But again, this ignores the basic fact of the Second Amendment which IS ONLY about gun ownership within the context of a well regulated Militia. If you want or feel the burning desire to "need" a gun, it's as simple as joining and training with a well regulated local Militia for the purpose of national security. The Second Amendment doesn't restrict your right to own a gun as long as you join a well regulated Militia. What's so difficult about that for so-called "Patriots" who claim to love this country?
Brian Dzyak February 10, 2013 at 01:10 AM
"The HELLER decision does that, but incorrectly by ignoring the intent of the Second Amendment and essentially rewriting it." . . As the Supreme court is permitted to do." - CP No, it is not permitted to rewrite and ignore the Constitution to placate a special interest. There is a specific process for amending the Constitution and merely passing a SCOTUS ruling is not it. http://uspolitics.about.com/od/usgovernment/a/amendments.htm The Scalia Court illegally ignored the wording and intent and history of the Second Amendment just as Justice Roberts' dissent explained.
Vic February 10, 2013 at 05:03 AM
Did he say "I'll get right on that, Brian!"
Vic February 10, 2013 at 05:17 AM
Who boosted his numbers in his blog about autism, Constant Comment? You and ypur buddy, Teller of Truth? You oppose cutting and pasting in order to defend yourself? It was either you or your Siamese twin who claimed Carl was trying to be king of the Patch, not him. Just a heads up.......
Carl Petersen III February 10, 2013 at 04:41 PM
Brian Dzyak 5:10 pm on Saturday, February 9, 2013 "No, it is not permitted to rewrite and ignore the Constitution to placate a special interest. There is a specific process for amending the Constitution and merely passing a SCOTUS ruling is not it." . . The Conservatives would agree with you in their assessment of Roe.
Brian Dzyak February 10, 2013 at 10:49 PM
"The Conservatives would agree with you in their assessment of Roe." - CP III And they'd be incorrect. The current discussion regarding the Second Amendment is about the amendment itself. Gun Nuts use it to justify their belief that they can own any guns they want for any reason they desire when clearly, historical records, quotes from the Founders, and the dissenting opinions in the HELLER case (from Justice Roberts, etc.) disagree. The Roe case wasn't about an Amendment or any particular part of the Constitution. It did USE the 14th Amendment to validate the claim that women have the right to determine how their own bodies are used. But it wasn't about the 14th Amendment in and of itself, the way NRA Gun Nuts abuse the Second Amendment to justify their agenda.
Brian Dzyak February 10, 2013 at 10:52 PM
In 1971, the Roe v. Wade case challenged abortion laws of the time that restricted the act to cases that endangered the mother's life. The 1973 ruling of the Supreme Court was in favor of Roe, stating that such anti-abortion laws violated the Due Process Clause (or DPC) of the 14th Amendment. The DPC reads that no state will "deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." In terms of Roe v. Wade, the relevant aspect of the clause centers on two concepts: liberty and privacy: - Liberty: the positive enjoyment of various social, political, or economic rights and privileges [3] - Privacy: freedom from unauthorized intrusion [4]
Brian Dzyak February 10, 2013 at 10:53 PM
The personal liberty mentioned in the DPC thus ensures one's enjoyment of our nation's rights and privileges. Unfortunately, the governmental interference in anti-abortion laws infringes on one's right to privacy. Because anti-abortion laws restrict an individual's right to privacy, and the DPC promises an individual's enjoyment of rights, anti-abortion laws violate the DPC. As a point of clarification, our nation's right to privacy is based on an amalgamation of specific privacy laws and protections. The privacy of belief is protected by the 1st Amendment, privacy of the home by the 3rd, privacy of the self and possessions against unwarranted searches by the 4th, and privacy of information by the 5th. The 9th Amendment, which protects rights not explicitly listed in the Bill of Rights, has also been used as a basis for additional privacy laws. These laws have been viewed by the Supreme Court as amble evidence that privacy stands as a fundamental right.
Brian Dzyak February 10, 2013 at 10:54 PM
The ruling (Roe) finds foundation in several other constitutional arguments. Some of these include: - 5th Amendment: An identical DPC to the one found in the 14th Amendment is present here, providing additional support to the latter's argument. - 9th Amendment: Freedom of choice and privacy specific to a woman's right to an abortion are both potentially protected under this amendment's protection of non-stated rights. - 13th Amendment: Anti-abortion laws create mandatory motherhood and force "involuntary servitude," which is banned by this amendment. - 14th Amendment (Equality Clause): Because only females would be burdened with pregnancy, labor, and the possibility of extended motherhood, anti-abortion laws violate the equal protection of law promised by this amendment.
Brian Dzyak February 10, 2013 at 10:55 PM
The DPC promises personal liberties, ensuring the positive enjoyment of various social, political, or economic rights and privileges. As privacy has been established on numerous occasions by the Supreme Court to be a right, and anti-abortion laws infringe upon this right, such laws violate the DPC. Furthermore, several other amendment-based arguments can be made in favor of the Roe v. Wade ruling, demonstrating that it is not without constitutional basis.
Brian Dzyak February 10, 2013 at 10:56 PM
In contrast, "in a strongly worded dissent, Justice Stevens, after conducting his own extensive analysis of the Second Amendment's text, history, and purpose, disparaged Scalia's historical analysis, stating that the Court had based its holding on "a strained and unpersuasive reading" of the amendment. In Stevens' opinion, the amendment protects the individual right to bear arms only for certain military purposes and does not limit the authority of legislatures to regulate private, civilian use of firearms (Id., at 2822). Stevens contends that not a word in the constitutional text supports the Court's “overwrought and novel description” of the Second Amendment as elevating above all other interests “the right of law-abiding responsible citizens to use arms in defense of hearth and home” (Id., at 2831). Rather, when each word in the text is given full effect, “the Amendment is most naturally read to secure to the people a right to use and possess arms in conjunction with service in a well-regulated militia”(Id., at 2831). And there is no indication that the “Framers of the Amendment intended to enshrine the common-law right of self-defense in the Constitution” (Id., at 2822). Instead, the historical record confirms that “the Framers' single-minded focus in crafting the constitutional guarantee to keep and bear arms' was on military uses of firearms, which they viewed in the context of service in state militias” (Id., at 2826)."
Brian Dzyak February 10, 2013 at 10:56 PM
Stevens argues that, in adopting the individual-right view, the Court had granted a “new constitutional right to own and use firearms for private purposes” (Id., at 2846) and had overturned long-standing precedent in Miller. In contrast to Scalia, Stevens interprets Miller to mean that the Second Amendment protects the right to keep and bear arms for certain military purposes, but it does not limit government's power to regulate nonmilitary use and ownership of weapons (Heller, at 2823). Stevens contends that many courts have relied on Miller, which is both the most natural reading of the amendment's text and the interpretation most faithful to the history of its adoption. He contends that “even if the textual and historical arguments on both sides of the issue were evenly balanced, respect for the well-settled views of all of our predecessors on this Court and for the rule of law itself would prevent most jurists from endorsing such a dramatic upheaval in the law” (Heller, at 2824). The dissent concludes: The Court would have us believe that over 200 years ago, the Framers made a choice to limit the tools available to elected officials wishing to regulate civilian uses of weapons and to use the common-law process of case-by-case judicial lawmaking to define the contours of acceptable gun control policy. Absent compelling evidence that is nowhere to be found in the Court's opinion, I could not possibly conclude that the Framers made such a choice (Id., at 2847).

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