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Blogs – September 2004

September 27, 2004

What the f---? Researchers at Victoria University in New Zealand report that it is acceptable in certain situations to use that naughty f word. The leader of the study, Janet Holmes, told the New Zealand Dominion Post, "F--- is regularly associated with expressions of solidarity, including friendly terms of address." More info

Note that Dr. Holmes and her team did their research in a soap factory. Perhaps workers can let a few f words fly there (and the time I worked at a factory, I frequently felt like using it), but the word clearly doesn't fly in other places. In most office environments where I've worked, its use is considered unprofessional. And the times I've heard it used, it certainly wasn't an expression of solidarity or a friendly term of address (as in, "that f-----g idiot!") And in the United States, lawsuit-jittery HR departments may discipline employees for such utterances.

Your words reflect who you are. Even if you can use a few f---s, s---s, and other vulgarities where you work, is that the image you want to create? For more thoughts about those types of words, see my speech "The Seven Words Revisited".  

September 10, 2004

Tomorrow, we have a book fair at our local library. A youth soccer league is having its opening day celebration. Blondie is playing at The Taste of Newport. Most department stores are having two-day sales.

Are we forgetting anything this Saturday? After all, it's only September 11.

At some point, we all need to climb up out of sorrow and move forward with our lives. The late Elizabeth Kübler-Ross identified acceptance as the fifth and final stage of grief. But even though a mere three years have passed since September 11, 2001, it seems that a large number of people are forgetting about it, or possibly trying to push it out from their minds. The exceptions are the politicians who use 9/11 to point fingers or justify actions.

The barbaric slaughter in Beslan and yesterday's bombing in Jakarta should warn us that we should never let September 11 slip from our awareness. Nor should we dishonor the dead by letting them fade from our memory.

In the Jewish tradition, we have a yartzheit remembrance on the anniversary of a loved one's death. We light a candle and say a memorial prayer called the Kaddish. We do these things to keep the memory of our loved ones alive, to honor them, and to recognize the preciousness and fragility of life. We remember not as a morbid clinging-on to loss. We remember in deep gratitude of the divine gift of life we've been given, especially when it can be cruelly stolen away.

So, regardless of your faith, do something tomorrow to honor those who perished three years ago. Light a candle, fly the flag, say a prayer, comfort the grieving, donate blood. You can still go to your book fairs, games, concerts, or sales, but just take a moment to remember.

September 4, 2004

"Fellow Toastmasters, most welcome guests, and most especially you, President Bush..."

The President had the same challenge Senator Kerry had a little over a month ago, to sway voters by appealing to their hearts and minds. We've seen President Bush do this brilliantly before. He was the resolute voice we heard after 9/11, the leader with the bullhorn who shouted encouragement to workers at Ground Zero, and the Commander in Chief who snuck into Baghdad at great personal risk to celebrate Thanksgiving with the troops. Bush's challenge is to counter the other images people have of him: the weapons of mass destruction that so far haven't been found, the less-than-forceful way he dealt with the Abu Ghraib scandal, his mangled language, and of course, all the unflattering images of him we've seen in Fahrenheit 9/11.  

President Bush wisely didn't try to reinvent himself for the campaign season. He presented himself as the George W. Bush we've come to know: plain-spoken, forceful, and with a dash of self-depreciating humor. His familiarity to us is one of his most important assets to us as a speaker. At this uncertain time, those undecided voters may swing to a leader they know than someone they don't.

He also did a good job of differentiating himself from his opponent without resorting to blistering attacks like Senator Zell Miller or his running mate, Vice President Dick Cheney. As an example, the President said the following about Kerry's vote on the $87 billion funding bill for the troops in Iraq, "[W]hen pressed, [Senator Kerry] said it was a 'complicated' matter. There is nothing complicated about supporting our troops in combat."

Bush addressed some of the criticisms of his presidency. To answer those who call the situation in Iraq a quagmire, he compared it to how the press viewed the occupation of Germany immediately after World War II. "[A] journalist wrote in the New York Times, 'Germany is ... a land in an acute stage of economic, political and moral crisis.'" President Bush then added, "Maybe that same person's still around, writing editorials."

Statements like this show the vulnerabilities in Bush's speech. Germany in 1946 wasn't like Iraq in 2004. There was no Abu Ghraib in Germany. There was no Nazi insurgency that continued to send American troops home in body bags after we rolled into Berlin. Our motives and objectives for entering World War II were clear, and the country remained united behind them. The hundreds of thousands of protesters that clogged the streets of New York show that the President hasn't achieved the same level of unity that Roosevelt and Truman did during World War II.

President Bush's greatest challenge is to dispel the doubts voters have of him. He must answer the criticisms his opponents have of him and show how a second Bush administration would do a better job that the first. Although familiarity can carry an incumbent in time of crisis, it could backfire if enough people are dissatisfied with the job he has done. He can look to his father's experience as an example.

To compare the two candidates in terms of their nominating speeches: Kerry did a good job appealing to the head, but didn't connect with our hearts. Bush connected well with our hearts, but he must do more to appeal to our heads and convince us he is worthy of a second term. Both candidates have plenty of work to do in the final two months of this campaign season.

September 1, 2004

The Democrats have Obama. The Republicans have Arnold.

Our Governor did an excellent job speaking at the Republican National Convention. Not only did he add star power to the convention's prime-time airing last night, he put together a compelling argument extolling the benefits of the Republicans over the Democrats. The best section of his speech is "How do you know if you are a Republican?" For example:

If you believe a person should be treated as an individual, not as a member of an interest group, then you are a Republican!

If you believe your family knows how to spend your money better than the government does, then you are a Republican!

(The full text of the speech is on More info)

The Republicans have been so busy attacking Kerry (the Purple Heart bandages and flip-flop sandals were over the top), that they haven't built a convincing case why Bush would be a better choice. Arnold, like Obama, did an eloquent job extolling the virtues of his party and presidential candidate. Arnold painted a picture of the Republicans that listeners can relate to and feel included.

Speaking of Obama, the Illinois senatorial candidate got another big boost thanks to his opponent Alan Keyes. Keyes, who is strongly anti-gay, called out Mary Cheney, Vice President Cheney's lesbian daughter, as a sinner. He had Ellen DeGeneres, Rosie O'Donnell, Melissa Ethridge, k.d. lang, and Provincetown, Massachusetts to choose from, and he decided to pick on the daughter of the Republican party vice presidential candidate. As Mary's father would put it, Alan screwed up big time, and he did so for two reasons. First, regardless of what your political views are, you never – ever – pick on the families of your party's standard bearers. Second, especially during a tight election, you never tick off a potential constituency, like gays and lesbians. Keyes ran counter to the message of inclusion that Schwarzenegger presented and the Republicans would be wise to follow. 

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