Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Let's Hit the Topics Today

Today is a truly topical Tuesday. I wish that said “tropical,” by the way, because it would mean I was writing this blog from Hawaii instead of Tulsa. Can you tell I'm drafting this on a Monday night? What a difference an "r" makes in a word. Oh well. The blog is merely topical today…my commentary on the latest news that's trending (or hot, I suppose) from around the web.

Trend #1—Stolen Apple Devices and Nazi Police States
Okay, it’s technically not a Nazi police state. It’s California. But the Silicon Valley-based law enforcement group known as REACT—Rapid Enforcement Allied Computer Team—recently went into action big time. I know what you're thinking? REACT sounds like a comic book fantasy hero squad invited by the nerds on the Big Bang Theory, but no. REACT actually exists, because it stomped all over a Gizmodo editor’s house to confiscate computers because Gizmodo (a technology blog) bought the new iPhone prototype for $5,000 from a guy who had no right to sell it.

You heard the story, right? Drunken Apple employee leaves the prototype in bar due to the influence of a heckuva strong beer. Stranger finds the phone, picks it up, and tries to return it to Apple (or so he claims), but Apple won't return his calls (or so he claims). So the stranger sells the phone to the Gizmodo editor, who takes the phone apart and writes about it online, a huge scoop for which he may now go to prison.

Is this all an overREACTion? Perhaps. But the moral of the story remains clear: Do not make Steve Jobs mad.

Trend #2—“Are $200 Jeans Worth It?”
Duh. No. Why are we even asking this question? We don’t even need to hear the story. But if you want to subject yourself to the answer, check out the recent segment that aired Good Morning America.

Actually, the real reason to watch this story is to see the nepotism. The girl testing out the different pairs of jeans is the reporter’s stepdaughter. Why, what a coincidence! Most stepmothers punish their daughters by making them clean up ash and refusing to let them go to the prince's ball. Mom and stepdaughter look like they're nearly the same age, by the way. Interpret that how you will.

Not only does this useless TV segment tell me nothing I don’t know, but then I have to be subjected to the torture of listening to the GMA hosts bullsh—ting each other with their phony laughs and absolutely lame conversation. Does Guantanamo force prisoners to watch this stuff? They should. It’d make me talk. It’s worse than waterboarding!

Trend #3—Illegal Immigrants and the Nazi Police State
I guess I should have saved the Nazi comparison for Arizona. Apparently, the illegal immigration law there is making the illegal immigrants so mad that they’re using their refriend beans to smear swastikas on the state Capitol building. I’m not kidding, although this kind of behavior doesn’t exactly inspire me to argue in favor of keeping these slobs around. And they wonder why we’re trying to kick them out. I wanted to eat those beans! And who’s going to clean up a mess like that, if it’s not the Mexican workers getting paid under the table?

By the way, the Obama administration is considering contesting the law, which by the way simply enforces the fact that it’s illegal to enter this country illegally. Please pass the Excedrin, because I need it. Either that, or Monty Python is back and somebody forgot to tell me about it. Ministry of Silly Walks seems to make sense now, doesn't it?

Trend #4—Poor Sandra Bullock
I know it’s the information age. But sometimes, it's just too much information. For example, it's bad enough to have to hear about Sandra Bullock's marriage trouble. But it's worse to hear about how everyone in the imbroglio is trying to work it out.

Today's latest news: Husband sleeps with a stripper for two years. Then the stripper decides to apologize by fax—yes, fax. That's what I call classy! If you're Sandra, how do you respond? I don’t think Emily Post’s etiquette column has ever covered this scenario. Personally, I think I’d handle it by taking the fax machine and whipping it at my cheating husband’s head. But maybe that’s just the Italian in me.

Trend #5—Boobquake
All I can say is this: If clerics from Iran wouldn’t say stupid things…like claiming it is because so many women dress indecently that we’re suffering so many earthquakes today…then women on Facebook wouldn’t feel it necessary to dress indecently to make a moronic point that nobody cares about except for all the perverts around the country who are thanking God right now that they got a chance today to stare at women’s boobs for free.

In case you’re wondering, I work at a religious nonprofit office so I didn’t participate in this event. But I mainly didn’t participate because the HR lady already sent out the dress code for summer season, and I don’t want to flip her out by violating it so blatantly and so soon. She scares me.

Trend #6—Depression and Chocolate Go Hand-in-Hand
Bad news, everyone. Depressed people eat more chocolate than non-depressed people. Now, I’m depressed because I like my chocolate. And I had chocolate today too. So now, I’m feeling really depressed because I'm probably depressed, because I eat so much chocolate. So now I need to get myself some more chocolate so I can stop feeling so depressed about being depressed because I like chocolate.

This story falls into the category that I like to call, “And they get paid to study this stuff? I’m in the wrong job, aren’t I?” Also, if they do more studies on chocolate, I’d like to participate because it sounds like I’d get to eat chocolate for free. Of course, the researchers can’t tell if chocolate causes depression, or depression causes chocolate. Kind of like what came first, the chicken or the egg. Oh well. I’m still going to eat my chocolate.

I think this is enough rambling for today. See you Friday!

Copyright © 2010 by Michele Chiappetta. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

What Kind of Relationship Are You In? (Facebook Style)

Recently, an acquaintance of mine got married, and as a result, I was considering how we depict our relationships through Facebook. It was just one of those moments where my wicked sense of humor and lightning-fast thinking gave me the perfect topic for a blog entry.

How familiar are you with the current relationship status options on Facebook? If you can’t recite them from memory (and shame on you if you can’t!), let me refresh you. On Facebook, you can be (1) single, (2) in a relationship (3) engaged, (4) married, (5) it’s complicated, (6) in an open relationship, and (7) widowed. I’m not going to touch widowed, because that’s fine. But the others? Sorry. We need more options than that. So here are my suggestions for an expanded, more reality-based set of choices for Facebook to consider adopting.

Single and Loving It
Single and Depressed About It
Single and My Biological Clock is Ticking Like a Time Bomb, So Watch Out
Single Because I Haven’t Met the Right Person Yet
Single Because I’m a Jerk and Nobody Can Put Up with Me
In a Relationship of Some Kind, but I’m Not Telling You What Kind
In a Relationship to Get My Parents Off My Back About Being Single
In a Relationship, but Looking to Dump It
In a Rebound Relationship That’ll Be Over Any Day Now
In a Serious Relationship With a Person I Hope to Marry
Engaged Just Today and Rubbing Everyone’s Nose in It
Engaged to Get My Girlfriend Off My Back About Why We’re Not Engaged
Engaged Without a Date Set Because We’re Not Getting Married for a Long, Long Time
Engaged and Planning the Wedding Right Now
Engaged Until a Nasty Breakup Happens
Engaged Until I Leave Him/Her at the Altar Because I Have Cold Feet
Engaged Because We Truly Love Each Other and Are Great Together
Married Just Today and Posting About It Right After Being Pronounced Husband and Wife
Married for So Long That I’ve Lost Count of the Years
Married for the Money
Married for Love
Married and Content
Married but Looking to Get Out
Married for the Kid’s Sake
It’s Complicated Because I’m a Mess
It’s Complicated Because He/She Is a Mess
It’s Complicated Because I’m Not Man/Woman Enough to Break It Off
It’s Complicated Because I’m in the Closet and I’m Not Coming Out
It’s Complicated Because I Have a Strange Sex Life/Fetish/Other Weird Thing Going On
In an Open Relationship Because I Can’t Commit
In an Open Relationship Because I Have a Strange Sex Life/Fetish/Other Weird Thing Going On
In an Open Relationship Because I’m a Stalker and the Other Person Doesn’t Know It Yet
In an Open Relationship Because I Prefer to Say This Rather Than Admit I’m Single

I think these options are much more specific and helpful. How about you? If there’s anything I missed, let me know. I’ll be glad to update the list and send it to the guys who own Facebook. (I’m kidding, I’m kidding. They change Facebook too much as it is. I won’t encourage them to do it again!)

Copyright © 2010 by Michele Chiappetta. All rights reserved.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Smile and Say Something Nice…It’s Worth It

This Friday, I'm recommending possibly the greatest film of all time...Or at least, the best film version of what I'd like my life to be like. Validation. 16 minutes of YouTube brilliance, starring the bug scientist from the TV show Bones. If that doesn't get you interested, I don't know what will. Haha. Yeah, I do know what will...my great blog entry. Enjoy!

Have you seen Validation? If you haven’t, you absolutely must. I mean it. See this film. It is worth every second of its sixteen minute, 23 second length. Validation is available on YouTube (the link and search information is listed at the bottom of my blog entry.) I saw it for the first time yesterday, and I think it may qualify for the greatest piece of film I’ve ever seen. Yes, my friends… It might even beat The Empire Strikes Back. That’s big, if you know me well.

Seriously, though, I’m not exaggerating. I really like Validation, and just thinking about it makes me want to see it again. It’s billed as “a fable about the magic of free parking.” But it’s so much more than that. It is a feel-good reminder that the words we choose to say to one another, and the way we say them, can transform the world around us. It’s optimistic, positive, uplifting…and yes, even challenging, because it makes you, the viewer, think about the way you view other people. Do you find yourself as upbeat about other people in real life as you feel as you watch this film? Hmmm. Heady thought for a Friday morning, eh? But it’s worth it.

I won’t tell you the storyline, because the film’s charm comes in the discovery. I don’t want to spoil that for you. But I will say this: The main character, a cheerful and encouraging parking attendant, spends so much of his time smiling that you might be tempted to believe this kind of behavior doesn’t happen in real life.

Except that it does happen—through me. And I can’t be the only person out there who is like this. I smile a lot. A lot lot. Wherever I go, I come across people—some who know me, and some who are complete strangers—who go out of their way to say to me with a smile on their own face, “You’re always smiling!” By and large, that’s true. I can’t help it. I like that about myself. A few people find it odd, I know, but most people love it. And smiling opens doors for me in ways that you wouldn’t expect. It’s great. And it makes me feel good. So why not?

Words are powerful encouragers and joybringers too, just as smiling is. Personally, I love encouraging others because when I say something that helps a person turn a corner in their thinking and see light at the end of what was a dark tunnel, I know I’ve given them a gift worth sharing.

The parking attendant in Validation isn’t afraid to say great things to complete strangers. Suddenly, these strangers become his friends and supporters. Of course they do. We all need encouragement, don’t we? And what is the harm about lifting people up instead of putting them down? I don’t mean lying or schmoozing. I mean showing kindness and letting your words prove that you believe the best about everybody. It’s amazing how doors open for the person who knows how to speak kind, life-filled words to people.

Take time to view Validation as soon as you have the 16 minutes in your schedule to spare. It will bring a smile to your lips and maybe it will give you a new hero to imitate.

To view Validation, you can go to YouTube or Google and search for “Validation short film.” It should come up as the first choice. Or if you are brave about clicking on an embedded link, here it is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cbk980jV7Ao

Copyright © 2010 by Michele Chiappetta. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Ripped from Today's Headlines

In today’s topical blog entry, I’ve pulled current headlines from various news websites and commented on them. I’ll do this from time to time for fun…but also to make the point that a lot of these headlines are badly written, and that the articles they introduce often aren’t even really news. They’re entertainment or polemics, but news? I don’t think so. Enjoy!

“Researchers pack pee, not pests to Antarctic” (MSN)
Do I need to say why this headline caught my attention? TMI, if you ask me. It’s an article about “environmental awareness” (read polemics, not news), and it’s about practical efforts being made to keep the Antarctic pristine. That means if you’re going to tour the Antarctic (and I know you are), check your luggage for spiders and other bugs before you go to the airport, and plan to cart your pee home. Fun for you.

“Kissing in 16th Century Naples: Punishable by Death” (MSN)
Yes, of course I clicked on this headline! Dirt on the relationships of medieval Italians? What’s not to love? Unfortunately, this so-called article is just a slide show of kisses from various Hollywood movies, coupled with factoids on kissing. Entertainment at best, though really, if I want entertainment, I’d rather play Pac-man on my iPhone. But to each his own.

What the Duggars Are Doing Wrong?” (MSN)
You mean besides raising 19 kids? Actually, yes. Their 19th babe was premature. The article’s author also had a premature baby and is upset that the Duggars are spending more time marketing the baby to the media than taking care of the baby. She also mentions that 19 kids is way too many. I agree. Media-hungry Christians. Ick. But the author raises a legitimate question—is it moral to letthese people be on the air? And is this family situation healthy for these kids? I can call that news.

You Filed, So Where’s the $$$ Going? (Foxnews)
The author says, and I quote: “Taxpayers have a nasty surprise coming. More and more future tax dollars will go to pay off old bills and old promises the federal government made, but couldn’t pay.” Just like that shady cousin of yours that you’re sure is going to end up on The People’s Court one day and embarrass the entire family. I hate to say it, but this is not news. We all knew it already, didn’t we?

Missing Florida May Have Been Found Alive (Foxnews)
My problem here is the bad writing. What are we saying here? That the girl may have been found, but we’re not sure? Or that she may be alive, but it’s hard to tell? I tend to think that if you find someone, you know it, and if the person is alive, you know that too. But the article actually says this girl “may have been found.” I’m still unclear as to how the state of Florida can’t know this for sure. Perhaps someone was smoking a little something before they wrote this article.

Rufus: 50 Cent Is Gay (Foxnews)
Articles like this make me wonder why Christians are so obsessed with Fox News. Sure, Fox is fair and unbiased at times. But they’re also bottom-feeders who make the National Enquirer look respectable. In this article, the gay singer Rufus (I’ve never heard of him) explains why he thinks rapper 50 Cent (I have heard of him but thought his career was long over, so who cares) is gay. I’m overly tired of hearing who’s gay by now. Wasn’t Meredith Baxter Birney enough? For me, this isn’t news or entertainment. It’s more like pushing toothpicks through my eyelids. Torture!

Hefner on Kate Gosselin: No Chance (CNN)
I’ll admit it. My first thought was, “Wow, if even Hef is turning Kate down, she must really be a b—tch!” Hugh is not exactly renowned for saying no to women, is he? But of course, this article is actually a reassurance to the world that none of us will need to see Kate naked in Playboy. This is news...very good news, in fact! I say, thank God!

Jim Carrey: Tiger’s Wife Had to Know (CNN)
Self-explanatory. We are finally getting the scoop on Tiger’s infidelity from the one person we’ve all been dying to hear from…actor/comedian Jim Carrey. I mean, haven’t you just been begging Jim to come forward on this one? I know I have. He’s following in the tradition of other Hollywood stars giving their opinions to me even though I don’t care to hear them. But at least it’s not Sean Penn talking to me about Iraq or Iran, so I’ll take it.

Trisha Yearwood’s Monkey Bread Muffins (ABC)
Is it just me, or does this sound completely disgusting for reasons that can’t be put into words? Oh, sigh of relief. I guess monkey bread is just a term for a sweet treat you bake in a tube pan and then serve by letting the kids pull a chunk off at a time. Like the little monkeys they are. I feel better now. Trisha uses canned biscuits for the recipe, but includes a recipe to make hot maple syrup from scratch. Huh? Oh well. I don't bake country.

Copyright © 2010 by Michele Chiappetta. All rights reserved.

Friday, April 9, 2010

How Does My Hair Look Now? Admissions of an Amnesiac

Today's blog is an essay I wrote a while back, but never had the opportunity to post. Hope you enjoy it!

If you’re like me, you appreciate mirrors. You respect them, maybe even love them. If you’re like me, you use mirrors every time you see them, no matter where they (and you) happen to be. And if you pay the least bit of attention to your surroundings, you already understand that mirrors are everywhere in our society.

You see them in your bathroom first thing in the morning (sorry for the reminder) . . . inside and outside your car as you rev up the engine and head to work . . . in the elevator you ride to reach your office . . . along the walls of the studio where you take that aerobics class . . . Again, sorry for the reminder. But mirrors are everywhere. You can’t help staring into them, even if you don’t want to.

There’s definitely a part of me that doesn’t want to, the part that remembers First Peter: “Don’t adorn yourself just with outer beauty, but let your beauty shine through the hidden woman in your heart.” Right, right. And then there’s the part of me that says, “All is vanity. So I’ll be vain.”

There is a reasonable explanation for my obsession with my reflection—my unruly curly hair. My hair is like a classroom of seventh-graders on the last day of school. The curls don’t stay where they’re supposed to; they don’t obey. They’re not even organized in their rebellion. They just straggle all over the place. I have a nagging suspicion that they purposefully rebel against mousse and hairspray just to spite me. That’s why I pause whenever I see a mirror. Gotta check the hair, and put those curls back in place!

Mainly, though, I appreciate mirrors because a good mirror is like a good friend. Neither one lies to you. A mirror forces you to step away from any distorted view of life that stubbornly tries to dominate your thoughts. A mirror compels you to face reality. In the mirror, you see life as it is. You see yourself as you are. You see the truth.

You even see the piece of spinach that’s been stuck between your two front teeth all afternoon as you’ve been grinning up a storm in front of dozens of people, including that cute guy you’ve been trying to captivate with your fabulous coolness. (Been there? I have. At least once a week. It’s terrible. I’m exaggerating. It’s not that often, thank God.)

I’d apologize for digressing, but actually, I’m not digressing. Everything I’ve just said is crucial to my next point: I find it absolutely incredible how frequently, how easily, how habitually I take time to check my reflection throughout the course of any given day. I must do it at least ten times a day. It might even be more often.

And yet, when it comes to checking my spiritual reflection by looking into God’s Word, I’m not nearly that diligent or consistent. When it comes to remembering who I am as a Christian, it’s as though I’ve suffered a blow to the head and now I have spiritual amnesia.

How is it possible to forget so much of the truth about who God has made me to be—and to forget it so often? It’s like I’m on a schedule for it. Go to work, check. Break for lunch, check. Forget that Jesus lives in me, check.

Let’s be honest. We all forget the truth sometimes. We get busy. We fall into ruts. Maybe we have a past we’re not proud of, so we focus too much on the mistakes we’ve made. Or maybe we think too highly of ourselves, and start thinking we’ve achieved our success in our own strength, not God’s. Mostly, though, life just happens. And we forget what we look like.

The problem is, when we forget who God says we are, we go back to what we know best. We go back to seeing ourselves the way we saw ourselves before we invited Jesus into our lives. That’s a major problem, because God doesn’t see us that way at all.

I saw a picture once, in my mind's eye, of how God sees me. I was standing in the king’s hall, and He was calling me into His service. At that moment, I received a new name, a new position, and a new future. I became a new person.

That’s the influence of the King on you. When the King calls you and you answer, you are a new person from that moment forward. He changes you by the very virtue of who He is. To believe otherwise is, quite frankly, an insult to His power. He’s the King. He’s marked you. Admit it! And believe it!

We have so many images of this truth in our lives. A husband gives a wife a new name when they marry. A child receives a new family when he or she is adopted. We get a new office when we get a new job. We see this truth all the time, and yet the natural examples of it never do it justice. The natural never reveals the fullness of what happens when we are transformed into God’s image through Jesus Christ. He sees you and me in that fullness right now, right this very second, whether you and I see ourselves that way or not.

If only I’d look into God’s mirror more often. If only I’d remember to do it, take the time to stop my day, stop the anxious thoughts, stop the habitual approach to life, the acting-out, the foolish behaviors, and say: “Wait! How do I look again? Let me see.” If I did that as often as I check my hair, I’d be reminded again and again that the real me is a fabulously attractive person who has all the hope I need, all the peace in the world, and all the grace I’ll ever require.

Because if I’d look in God’s mirror, I’d see exactly how I look right now. I’d see who I really am. I’d see the truth. I’d see Jesus Christ. He is God’s mirror. And I’m a new creation in Him.

I’m pretty certain that if I’d look into Him a lot more often, I’d be a lot more conscious of who I am in Him every moment of the day. I would no longer be an amnesiac, would I? Wouldn’t that be worth making the effort to achieve?

I know one thing for sure . . . It would sure beat checking out what my curls are doing!

Copyright (c) 2010 by Michele Chiappetta. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

How I Became Lady Nightblade

Today, I explain how I chose the name for my evil comic book alter-ego, "Lady Nightblade." Should I ever need an alter-ego, that is. And should I ever decide to be evil, that is. And should I ever find myself trapped in a comic book, that is. It could happen! Seriously, this is a rerun from my old website review column published in The Interdimensional Journal, a publication of Mensa's Science Fiction and Fantasy Special Interest Group. All websites mentioned below are active if you want to check them out, as long as you hold me harmless from any damage you do if you decide to become an evil supervillain as a result.

So you’re ready to join the armies of darkness, and you’re wondering how to go about it. Today’s villain doesn’t have to start from Old Scratch anymore, not with the wealth of information available on the Web. Visit So You’ve Decided to be Evil. This step-by-step guide to evildoing provides a wide range of educational resources for the villain in training, from considering your career options to choosing your name. (Please refer to me as Lady Night Blade from now on.) I’ve been practicing my evil laugh with tips from this website, and I now sound wonderfully deranged. Muahahahaha.

Clearly, Darth Vader, Sauron, and their ilk didn’t get where they are today on their good looks; they must have studied hard. A useful resource for the student of evil is Peter’s Evil Overlord List at www.eviloverlord.com. Peter (an experienced villain, no doubt) describes the 100 things not to do when you’re an evil overlord. He provides an interesting opposing viewpoint to So You’ve Decided to be Evil’s evil laugh section:

Despite its proven stress-relieving effect, I will not indulge in maniacal laughter. When so occupied, it’s too easy to miss unexpected developments that a more attentive individual could adjust to accordingly. (#29, © 1996-7 by Peter Anspach)

Now, if you’re a Montgomery Burns in the making, I suggest you try a hostile takeover of Future Feed Forward. FFF’s patented Temporal Networking technology allows its employees to travel into the future to do research and to invest your money for you. Its employees pay to work there, because all the money they “loan” to the company will accrue tremendous interest in the future. For the evil corporate CEO on the rise, all that ready cash is too good to pass up.

Of course, no villain’s education would be complete without studying the masters. I recommend reading the great Saruman’s diary, available at Flying Moose of Nargothrond. Don’t let the site’s address fool you. The Web master is not a flying moose; he’s a brave man fighting for the rights of evildoers everywhere. Finally, we can hear the story from the Enemy’s point of view. This site, by the way, includes much more in the way of Tolkien humor, but as a villain-in-training, you’re probably much too busy to read any of it.

Speaking of being busy, I must get going. I’m planning to start my own evildoer’s website and wanted to call it “Take Over the World.com” but Microsoft beat me to it. Curses! (And happy surfing!)

(To see the 2011 update to this column on my blog, go to So You Want to be Evil.)

Copyright (c) 2012 by M.A. Chiappetta. All rights reserved.

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Language of Neutrality

Believe it or not, today’s philosophical Friday entry isn't intended to provoke controversy. Although abortion is a highly controversial subject, my blog today focuses specifically on the language of the debate, and in particular, the question of whether words are ever truly neutral. As much as we try, I don’t think we can ever keep our language totally objective. What do you think?

Recently, National Public Radio (NPR) changed its policy for reporting on the abortion debate. In the past, NPR used the terms “pro-choice” and “pro-life” to indicate the two sides of the issue. But in changing its policy, the radio news outlet is attempting to “[ensure] the words we speak and write are as clear, consistent and neutral as possible,” per the NPR staff memo issued on the subject and available in its entirety online in the NPR Ombudsman’s blog entry dated March 4, 2010.

(NPR memo linked here at: www.npr.org/ombudsman/2010/03/npr_changes_abortion_language.html?ft=1&f=1)

The new terms to be used are “abortion rights supporter/advocate” and “abortion rights opponent” or a suitably similar wording.

Now, many people would argue that pro-choice and pro-life are highly charged emotional terms—although at least one journalist argues, I think quite successfully, that the terms have lost much of that charge through years of blatant overuse. (See Jeff Bercovici’s March 25, 2010 article “NPR Retires ‘Pro-Life’ and ‘Pro-Choice’ in Futile Attempt at Neutrality” at the Daily Finance website.

(Link provided here: http://www.dailyfinance.com/story/media/npr-retires-pro-life-and-pro-choice-in-futile-attempt-at-neu/19414709/).

I tend to agree with Bercovici’s take. But even if you don’t, I think you can agree that at least both terms carry a charge. Pro-life emphasizes the right to life that everyone feels they have, even if we don’t talk about it. When’s the last time you heard about a murder victim who announced to their killer that they were relieved to have their life taken away, because they didn't feel entitled to have that life? Never. We hold trials for murder in this country precisely because we believe each person has a right to the life they have, and that no one has a right to take that life away. Fair enough. I’m pro-my-life, that’s for sure.

And pro-choice… Well, who doesn’t want a choice? We live in the land of the free, after all. Freedom isn’t freedom if we don’t at least acknowledge everyone’s right to choose. Of course, some people choose foolishly, to the harm of others, which is why we have laws in this country. But we’ve abolished slavery because we believe people should live free. We try to bring freedom to other countries. We try not to inhibit the choices of others, as long as those choices hurt no one. Fair enough. I’m pro-my-choices, too.

In sum: life and choice are both important enough to me that the emotional charge in one term cancels the other out. Like positive and negative ions. Leaving things neutral, in a sense.

I don’t think that cancellation occurs in the new terms being used by NPR (and other AP outlets). Why? Simple. Supporters are good people; they encourage and support things. Advocates are good people; they speak on behalf of others. I like having supporters and advocates. They make me look great.

Opponents on the other hand, well, I’m not crazy about them. They oppose me. I don’t like opposition, because it inhibits and hinders me. That’s what opposition is supposed to do—hinder and not help. Opponents are disagreeable folks, always disagreeing with me. How annoying.

And then there is the word rights. We love our rights in this country. We have a Bill of Rights—a whole long list of what we are entitled to, things that belong to us. We want our rights. We invoke our rights. We have Miranda rights. We like our rights, don’t we? We fought our War of Independence because we didn’t like being taxed without representation, a violation of our rights to be represented fairly by our government. Who could possibly have the nerve to oppose certain rights and still call themselves Americans?

Ah, that’s the problem. Whether you are in favor of abortion or opposed to it, the truth is that the term abortion rights opponent carries a great negative connotation, without any chance to carry a positive connotation. The term abortion rights supporter/advocate has a significant positive connotation, and lacks a negative connotation. So in truth, the new terms are actually more biased than the old, emotional terms.

Ironic, isn’t it? In an effort to find neutrality in language, NPR and the AP have only succeeded in championing a more subtle, yet more serious bias. And they’ve also succeeded in proving what I believe is the truth undergirding all communication:

Language is never neutral, because it carries our opinions. So it’s incumbent on us to do our best to listen to other people and acknowledge any truth in their view of things—because none of us ever has the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. In our humanness, we’re too limited for that. Let’s admit it, and stop pretending to a neutrality that we don’t have.

Copyright (c) 2010 by Michele Chiappetta. All rights reserved.