The Department Of Pointing Out The Obvious (DOPOTO) lauds incoming Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for deflecting a question about peace in the Middle East. At her confirmation hearing today before The United States Senate, she told her former colleagues that despite “seemingly intractable problems,” the United States “cannot give up on peace.” In yet another reminder that Ms. Clinton is a formidable politician, she offered no hope whatsoever of peace in the Middle East breaking out in our lifetimes without actually saying so, blandly mentioning “reaching out” to Syria and Iran, fully aware that everyone in the room knows how futile an exercise that will be. Experienced analysts at DOPOTO read her statements as:
“We’re not giving up on Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny either, but we’re not holding our breath. We all know that as long as there is one Israeli and one Palestinian standing there will be a state of war! Unless maybe they get religion all of a sudden. No, wait, scratch that! They’ve already got plenty of that. Come on, guys! You know exactly what I mean, but you want me to dance around people hiding their homicidal racism behind God so we can all feel better about ourselves! Life’s too short for that game! If you want to make a jackass of yourself, don’t let me stop you! We all like to see a monkey dressed in a tuxedo every so often, Senators, but these hearings are hardly the forum for slapstick comedy. So please, try to limit the stupid questions and let’s move on to the realm of the possible.”
Even though she never said those exact words, the Senators got the message. Politics is full of code words.The Department Of Pointing Out The Obvious has become adept over the years at deciphering the hidden meaning of politicians’ public statements. For example, “Mission Accomplished” really means “This is only the tip of a real treacherous iceberg, boys, and I’m the Captain of the Titanic!” This misrepresentation of the state of hostilities goes back to the days of the Vietnam War, when the term “Vietnamization,” referring to turning the war over to the South Vietnamese Army, really meant: “Good luck, pals, we’re outta here!” Count on the term “Iraqization” coming into popular use shortly.
Politicians walk a fine line between telling the truth and trying to get reelected. DOPOTO, on the other hand, has but one mandate: to point out the 800 pound gorilla in the room. Towards that end, we study culture, business and politics in an effort to make their workings more transparent, not always an easy task when there are people in this world whose sole occupation is spinning the issues, otherwise known as “lying.” Hence the business term “downsizing” instead of “firing a whole bunch of people.” Also in business you hear of “compensation packages,” “bonuses,” “preferred stock options” and “golden parachutes” for corporate executives, genteel terms for “grand larceny.” In government, stolen public funds get labeled as “misappropriations.”
On the other hand, lesser mortals than corporate executives or politicians never “misappropriate” anything. Without the benefit of having at their disposal press secretaries or public relations personnel, what they do is simply called stealing, and what they get for doing what others do on a far grander scale is lengthy prison sentences rather than bail outs. For the average felon, there is no trained professional handy other than his defense attorney to explain away his thieving ways, and when it comes time to hire a defense attorney, it’s usually too late. Political and corporate thieves applaud this reality, so as to appear to their electorate and their stockholders as being in favor of “law and order,” code words for controlling crime committed by small timers. This phenomenon was chronicled by Charles Dickens when he wrote Fagin’s passionate defense of the London authorities’ practice of hanging members of his youthful army of thieves in the novel “Oliver Twist,” just so long as his own neck wasn’t being measured for a noose.
There’s all sorts of code words in the entertainment industry too. When an actor or actress is “suffering from exhaustion” that really means they’ve been stoned out of their minds for 3 months straight and are headed to rehab. When a movie “underperforms at the box office” that means it’s a real bomb. When a movie is “in extended post-production” that means that all the King’s Horses and all the King’s Film Editors can’t put this Humpty Dumpty of a film into any semblance of a coherent story. “Creative differences” is code for “we can’t stand the sight of each other.” Society is full of code words and glib assumptions.
Take the inauguration of our first black President, Barack Obama. DOPOTO has seen reports of numerous pronouncements being made by the left and the right that this makes us finally a “colorblind society.” That’s like saying that the first airplane flight by the Wright Brothers in 1903 made us an “aviation society” even though we only had the one airplane. When the first smokestack factory was built here, that may have signaled the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, but it wasn’t a full blown revolution until there were a whole bunch of factories and foundries and mills chugging away. The election of Obama does show great progress and is an excellent sign that America is growing up when it comes to race. He represents a huge ray of hope as well as a concrete achievement.
That said, the Department Of Pointing Out The Obvious has a obligation to question our giddy assumptions. This is just the dawn of a colorblind society, if that is even what it means. It might be that Obama is one of those remarkable individuals who defy definition and conventional wisdom and that no other significant racial progress will be made anytime soon. Or it just might be that he’ll be just another mediocre president. What would that mean to our brand new “colorblindness?” Like the airplanes and the factories, only time will tell. When it becomes no big deal what color or gender are our leaders, that will be that and no one will have to make any pronouncements one way or another. Still, it is exciting just the same, and a fine reason to be proud and hopeful.