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Words from Winterbilt

What are they really saying…?

Shannon Bohrer

(April, 2010) As many of you are aware, there is humor in our political system and much of the humor is derived from the players. It always amazes me what some Congress-persons say - especially the difference in what they say and what they mean. I sometime wonder if they even know what they say and what it means. According to my wife, people say that about me sometimes too. I wonder what she means by that…..

In communications it is said that everyone talks or writes in two columns; the right and left. I know that some of you are saying that the right and left represent each political party. No, that is a different right and left. And why do they call them parties? In communications what we say or write is in the left hand column, and what we mean is in the right hand column, and often they are completely different. The more polite you are, the closer to the left and the more direct, the closer to the right. Of course this is also dependent upon your meaning of being polite.

A few examples: In the left column "What a precious child," and in the right column "The child is a brat." In the left column, "My, what a unique looking baby" and in the right column "That poor child was hit with an ugly stick."

Added to this communication confusion is gender-speak. When a woman asks "How do I look in this dress?" and the man responds "Just fine," we have two problems. The first is that the female is requesting confirmation and in her vocabulary, "just fine" is two steps below neutral and is in the category of not acceptable. Of course the responding male believes his response is more than adequate. He did not just grunt; he used two words. The second problem is that from his perspective he was multi-tasking, he was listening, he responded appropriately, and verbalized his response. The male's judgment is often based on comparing his response to the lowest common denominator.

However, just having an understanding that we have a right and left column and that we sometimes have gender differences does not always explain what politicians say! I have come to believe that there is a left and right column, gender difference, and political speak. Additionally, I in no way am implying that this is the complete explanation of understanding what politicians say. Explaining what a politician says often requires extensive knowledge in the metaphysical sciences and sometimes in the world of the black arts. The following example is based on a true story that was documented in a book several years ago.

A governor in a southern state was running for re-election. This was before vehicle air conditioning was standard fare and when many roads were dirt and gravel. The governor, his driver, one adviser, and a reporter were traveling in one vehicle to a remote town on a summer day. The windows of the vehicle were down; it was hot, and the ride was long and dusty.

When the vehicle reached the small town the governor gave a speech in front of the post office: the same speech he gave at every event. However, the crowd, which was rather small, did not seem impressed. As the governor was ending his speech, he added "Just one more thing, the next time I travel the road from the capital to your town, that road will be paved." With this final statement the unimpressed mood of the crowd seemed to change in favor of the governor.

The governor entered his vehicle, and the four individuals started the long ride back to the capital. After a few minutes, as the vehicle as was traveling down the road, the governor's adviser said "Governor, I don't think you should have promised to pave that road." To which the governor responded "I did not promise to pave that road. I said the next time I travelled that road it would be paved, and I don't ever intend to travel that road again."

This is a fine example of why it is difficult to not understand what many Congress-persons speak and say and why we may need a third column for interpretation for the rest of us. I propose that column right, or column 1, is what they say. Column left, or column 2, is what they mean, and column 3 is what it means to us.

When a person running for Congress promises you tax cuts, what are they saying? The left column is saying that as a tax payer you should not pay high taxes. The government wastes your money, and since it is your money you should have some of it back.

The right column is saying you will benefit if I am elected. In these tough economic times I am the person you should elect because I look out for the working class persons.

The third column, the meaning of what is being said, should be the most important to us.

In this example, when we receive tax breaks, the government just borrows the money from someone else, usually another country. They have to borrow it because they spent everything else. It would be more honest if a politician said you can have more of your money now, and we will just put the bill on your government credit card. Of course the several hundred dollars will cost you several thousand dollars because we have borrowed so much that the government is just paying the minimum on your bill.

When you think about it column 1 and 2 have some relationship that most of us can understand. However column 3 is not even on the same page. Then again - most of us know that.

Read other articles by Shannon Bohrer