So much arguing and so little clarity about so many things. So many people bicker over ideas without defining the terms they are using as they sling their words.

But the definitions make all the difference. Some recognize this and use the unrecognized dissonance to their advantage and some assume both sides of the argument agree on the definition. Further, some (many) rebel against whatever authority may have established already a definition, and then manufacture a debate by re-defining a word without acceptance of the new definition by the opposition.

Failure to agree on the definitions of the words over which we argue perpetuates the argument. All we’re doing if we don’t come to terms on semantics is throwing stones, or spitting into the wind.

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Those who are in favor of the status quo will avoid defining the terms because that perpetuates the argument, which extends the life of the status quo. Those who want change must accomplish axiomatic terms in spite of the opposition’s will to avoid it.

With that said, allow me to list a few terms for which we simply must find some agreed upon definitions if we will ever move on to resolutions of national disputes:

“well, regulated, militia, people, keep, bear, arms” (for the Second Amendment issue)

“person” (for the abortion issue)

Until we can argue through and agree on the definitions or accept the ones established by legal authorities, there’s no point in arguing the rest of the ideas.

While I’m on the subject of semantics, can we talk about another word? Depression. First of let me establish some non-synonyms: sadness, bad mood, bad day, grief, loneliness.

Depression, unlike basic emotions, is the brain’s failure to send electrical impulses through the white matter of the brain. Certain medication helps this neurological function to perform correctly, just like certain medications help to lower cholesterol or fight bacteria or calm down stomach acid. I can’t simply decide to make my white matter perform correctly anymore than I can decide I don’t have a torn ligament.

Screenshot (155)Once upon a time in junior high, I broke my wrist in P.E.  Someone stepped on it with cleats while playing touch football. The coach and some of the players immediately assumed that I was faking my inability to use that wrist, and told me to “shake it off,” and “get back out there.” They changed their tune when I returned from the doctor with a cast on it, but with depression, even when you return from the doctor you have nothing to prove the truth of your claims of pain, so people often don’t believe you’re dealing with anything more significant than what they felt the last time they were stood up for a date. Junior High.

My point here is this: Let’s stop being so 1980’s about stuff. If we want to solve some problems, let’s define and understand our basic terms and then work from there on the remainder of the issues. If however, the goal is to maintain the status quo, with people killing  themselves or others while we recklessly sling words at each other to bolster our own self images, I’ll just excuse myself quietly. I’m sure no one will mind.



One thought on “semantics

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  1. When it comes to historical writings, it’s important to at least agree on what the author meant. ‘Well-regulated’ didn’t mean under control back in their day; it meant to be in proper working order. If people can at least agree on that, you can take it from there and even eliminate some bad arguments.

    Liked by 1 person

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