Words change. Just a few weeks ago, “viral” was a good thing. Just a few years ago, we saw our “friends” in person, and didn’t count how often we were “liked”.
Adam, the first man, made new words for new things. We don’t. We recycle.
In another old story, Moses received “text” from the “cloud” and displayed it on “tablets”. This sentence makes sense to people who don’t know the story, but words have changed, so it tells the wrong story. And so, with an older and more important word that is currently being recycled…
Until recently, “rights” described something intrinsic to every woman and every man – a birthright not awarded by culture or government, but inherent in the very nature of things.
But, for much of the nation, this idea is being kicked to the curb. We no longer understand the nature of things, even self-evident things like women and men. We don’t honor birthrights, even those so modest as the right to birth. We loudly shame the Nazis and shame the slavers, though the idea of intrinsic human rights is no more welcome here than it was in any concentration camp or plantation.
Like them, we recycle useful words, and whatever “rights” we claim will borrow the lofty language of justice, but they will be enforced with raw power, whether it is property controlled by the government, speech forbidden by mobs, thought compelled by schools, or kids – born and unborn – abandoned or sold for parts.
It is this way with phrases like “freedom” and “civil rights”: They are too beautiful to attack and too powerful to ignore. They find their way into every speech, even speeches designed to curtail freedom and justify civil wrongs. We must look deeper than the words.
We once held these truths to be self-evident, “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”.
Those truths are still self-evident, and our only hope for civil society.