Keep it simple. Let it begin with me. Progress, not perfection. Love, learn and grow. Now these are mottoes that make for a better life.
But not every catch phrase inspires. Some make me wince, others crack me up, and lots leave me scratching my head.
Teach Tolerance. So gays and members of other minority groups are to be tolerated? How magnanimous. What about teaching respect, compassion, humility? Clearly that’s the intent here, but it’s hard to imagine a slogan more condescending or more self-congratulatory in fewer words.
The disease of alcoholism. While there’s no denying that alcoholism is a crippling, even life-threatening affliction, I don’t think this phrase is effective in educating people. It’s too facile, too easy to shoot down. Of course, the public—and health insurance companies—need to recognize addiction as a serious medical condition rather than a moral failing. But I think insistence on the word “disease” backfires, undermining the credibility of the message.
We used to refer to the “compulsive” drinker; expressed clinically, wouldn’t alcoholism be a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder? I think the OCD label has a lot to offer in our understanding of this baffling and complex condition, since many alcoholics and addicts demonstrate obsessive thinking leading to ever-more dangerous compulsive behavior.
Pro-Choice. A lot has been written about the blatant inconsistency of so-called “pro-lifers” who support the death penalty and oppose government assistance for low-income mothers opting to keep their babies. But the truth is, I’ve never liked the language of my side, either.
For one thing, the word “choice” seems glib, as if one is faced with a decision between a summer job and a trek through Europe. It also doesn’t help that anti-gay forces have co-opted the term (as in “lifestyle choice”). Moreover, in the context of the abortion controversy, “choice” is overly abstract, a weak rhetorical counterpart to “life.”
Pro-woman? Pro-privacy? There has to be a better, um, choice.
Hands Free—It’s the Law. Call me quirky, but I prefer driving with my hands on the steering wheel. Now I have to worry that I’m going to get pulled over for it?
Seriously, I don’t even know where to start on this one. An anti-distraction warning that is in itself so distracting—its bizarre proclamation just begging for misinterpretation—that it has probably caused accidents? What a weird message. And how is it possible that the Bay Bridge authorities are the last to find out that even hands-free cell phone use should be discouraged?
Viewer Discretion Advised. Folks, I fail to grasp how my tendency to blab or not blab secrets should affect my ability to handle TV shows with violent or sexual content.
Published in Piedmont Post September 16, 2009