Monday, August 29, 2005

Incite-ful Speech

We have a really funny story to tell about Sonshine that will embarrass him to no end in front of his future wife. Sonshine is a natural provocateur, and he discovered early on that certain words made people react uncomfortably. "Naked" was one of these words. He made sure to say the word "naked," loudly and prominently, in every conversation. This culminated in the horribly embarrassing "Naked Dancing" incident wherein he danced around shouting "Naked dancing! Naked dancing!" in front of the Primary [children's church auxiliary] President and I turned the same color as my burgundy blouse as I assured her that he really, truly had never been exposed to naked dancing, he was just finding a way to use the word "naked." After that he was forbidden to say the word "naked" except in the appropriate context. We hated having to ban a word, but it was just out of control.

When "naked" was banned, he discovered the word "nipples." He refined his conversational technique to include the word at unexpected times, in sentences such as "That ball hit me so hard it hurt my nipples!" He would then reinforce the word by gesturing at his nipples. Eventually we had to ban "nipples" too. After that he discovered that a question can be provocative, so he started asking everyone around him "What if two men could get married?" It's much, much harder to ban him from saying a phrase or asking a question.

Why do I bring up this horribly embarrassing story? Because this weekend I noticed on TV a lot of anti-war commentators saying exactly the same provocative things. They may not have used the words "naked" or "nipples," but they all used the same phrases in the same order and the same combinations. These are phrases deliberately designed to incite reactions in people, just like Sonshine's primitive use of uncomfortable words.

When a preschool child does it, it's cute. But when a grown person employs that sort of demagoguery and rhetoric, it's completely unattractive. And if I hear the phrase "Pottery Barn rule" one more time, my head is going to explode. I think the Pottery Barn should sue the Democratic National Committee for trademark infringement.