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Words from Winterbilt

Words, Slogans and Elections – What do they mean?

Shannon Bohrer

(7/2016) It is creative, patriotic and at the same time somewhat confusing what some of the candidates are saying during this election year. And I am just talking about their campaign slogans. We have Trump’s "Make America Great Again." Does that mean that we were great, but we are not great anymore? I guess it works if you believe that America is not great… Then of course, it does sound better than "Don’t make America great again" or "Make America average again" Who determines, poor, average or great? Could American be spectacularly average?

We also have "A Future to Believe In" for Berne Sanders. The future is the future, it will happen. Is he saying that everything he is telling us will happen, or is he saying the world will end if he is not elected? If one does not believe in the future, do they expect a short life? What would a future look like that we did not believe in?

Then we have Hillary Clinton’s, "Hillary for America" and "Fighting for us" and "I'm With Her." At least with Hillary’s one has a choice. Of course "Hillary for America" sounds good, but compared to what, – Hillary against America? And then we have "Fighting for us." I guess that is better than saying "fighting against us." Politicians like to use the word "fighting" as if they are really doing physical battle. And Hillary’s latest slogan is "I’m with her," which does sounds nice. And it does sound better than I am not with her.

Our political election cycles are full of catchy slogans that often sound nice. But the meanings are not always clear, at least to me. Do we vote for people because of the slogan, or do we like the slogans because of which candidate the slogan is attached to? Maybe the meaning of the slogan is determined by who says it! If we like the candidate then we give weight and good meaning to their slogan. Conversely, if we don’t like the candidate then maybe we don’t like the slogan?

Some of slogans used in this election include; "Reigniting the Promise of America," "From Hope to Higher Ground," "Defeat the Washington Machine," "Unleash the American Dream," "Telling it like it is," "New Possibilities," "Real Leadership" and "A New American Century." I would think that many readers including myself, (there is an assumption that I do have readers) like many of these slogans. But we could also be saying, who are those slogans for? That is my part of my point; many of us have no idea who these slogans were for.

If the slogans are important, should we not remember them even if they are not attached to a name? Do you remember who said, "Let America Be America Again?" This slogan was from John Kerry’s campaign in 2004, and to me, it sounded nice, until I tried to determine what it meant. When one says let America be American again, does that mean that for a period of time, we were not America? If so, who were we when we were not America?

One of my favorites was "A Stronger America," which was also a slogan of John Kerry’s. It just sounds good and it sounds patriotic and it makes you feel proud. But when you think about it – what does stronger mean? Stronger than we are or used to be? How do you measure that? Maybe, it one of those things in life that we know, we understand and we feel, but we cannot put it into words? Maybe slogans that give us good feelings are what the politicians are trying to do. Another popular slogan was "A Safer World and a More Hopeful America," which was very catchy. Again, it sounds great, it sound very patriotic and it gives one a good feeling, but the meaning? How do we measure a safer world? And a more hopeful America, is- more hopeful than … average? Maybe it means more hopeful in the future, so we can believe in the future….yea, that’s like a future you can believe in, well maybe… I’m not sure. It can be confusing for me, maybe if it just sounds good and sound patriotic, then it gives us a good feeling and we like it.

The word "change" is often used in slogans. "For People, for a Change," "It's Time to Change America," "Change We Can Believe In," "Change We Need," "It’s Time for a Change," "Some People Talk Change, Others Cause It," "A Leader, For a Change," are all slogans from our life time, well - my life time. The word CHANGE can be powerful and have strong connotations and emotions. Of course words like new, better and stronger - also denote some kind of change.

While change sounds nice, it can also be a complex and difficult idea. It literally means that something different will occur, and while many people say they like that, when it involves them – they don’t like it.

Someone once said that "I don’t mind change, as long as it does not affect me."

Many people in our society say they don’t like things – as they are – which means that they want change, some kind of change. So if you believe problems exists you understand that to correct a problem -something has to change. I belong to several curmudgeon type clubs; they are generally informal groups that are elderly that seem to know everything. An informal requirement to belong to a curmudgeon club is to have a penchant for complaining. Almost to a person they don’t like things as they are, and almost to a person they see no reason to change. My conclusion is that while many people say they want change, they are not talking about themselves; they are talking about how others should change. It’ the, I am alright, but you need to change syndrome.

Another view is that the country has changed and there are large segments of our society that don’t agree with the changes, so again they want the changes reversed, which is a change. The congress has voted over 50 times to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act, which could also be called reverse change. Some people still want Social Security and Medicare repealed and you would think those are settled issues. Of course no matter which party occupies the white house, the other party wants a change, meaning they want to occupy the white house.

Maybe all of this is just part of American Exceptionalism. We all know that the knowledge we have – is correct, so anything does not fit with what we know - is probably wrong. We also know that our political party is better than the other party. And we know that if the other party is elected, our world will end. Of course if our world ends, that is not a future we can believe in. But if we defeat the other party, we could be more hopeful and maybe even stronger. Yea, …that’s it, well maybe - maybe we could just hope!

Read other articles by Shannon Bohrer