Friday, October 27, 2006

The speaking of the English in Washington

I am, myself, to the manner born, in the speaking of English, assuming one is willing to grant that my native South Texas dialect deservedly bears same name as the language most commonly spoken in North America and the British Isles. I know that Lyndon Johnson, long ago, and George Bush, more recently, have cast doubt on that assumption, but bear in mind that LB J most likely would have forgotten how to speak English in DC, a very special place, and that George Bush's efforts to sound like a yokel are successful only because of native talent, not his origins.

But in general I have assumed that our current batch of Republican politicians actually are, like me, native English speakers, except for exceptional horrorshow visitants like Henry Kissinger, back again from the realm of the undead. The lesson here is never to assume nothin. Thus we have the Vice President, when asked on Tuesday in a radio interview, "Would you agree a dunk in water is a no-brainer if it can save lives?" answering, "Well, it's a no-brainer for me."

So what can this mean? Those of us who learned to speak our language at our mother's knee have somehow jumped to the conclusion that he is endorsing a specific form or torture called waterboarding. Indeed, what the hell else could the question have meant, and what the hell else could the answer mean?

Or so would ask your average native speaker.

Ah, but no. Mebbe we native speakers don't speak the language Mr. Cheney does. Tony Snow, the current White House glad-hand to the press, says the vice president "was talking in general terms about a questioning program that is legal to save American lives and he was not referring to water boarding."

So it's not waterboarding, and moreover--according to Snow--the Vice Prez could not say what in fact he was really referring to because of security concerns. The particular nature of the lifesaving "dunk" is, God bless my soul, a State Secret.

But even if it's a secret, let's be logical about this. If he is not referring to waterboarding, or to some some ingenious but as yet unrevealed form of water torture, what other kind of dunk in H20 would the vice president possibly want us to share his faith in the life-preserving properties of? A warm bath? A nice shower with a bar of soap? Oh, boy, the VP would be treading on dangerous ground there, if only because of the justifiably poor image of concentration camp guards giving prisoners a bar of soap and inviting them into a shower room. I don't thing the VP really wants to go there. Not even he. Or let us hope not.

So a very modest application of ordinary logic to the combined statements of the Vice President and Tony Snow can lead to only two possible conclusions, which in this case are not necessarily exclusive, the one being that they are lying, or the other being that they do not actually speak English.

"Stay the course."

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