Commentary: Quentin Kopp

Political War on Vocabulary

Whether or not another impeachment of the lying, cheating, draft-dodging Donald Trump is inarguably warranted, its mootness reassures more antics by the one-time television performer who borrows money and doesn’t repay it.  

It’s no surprise that Trump aspired to pardon himself; that would constitute his ultimate historical achievement. The legal logic of allowing a self-pardon astonishes this writer who was admitted to the first of three eventual State Bars in November 1952 while in the U.S. Air Force.  As an unidentifiable (by me) commentator declared:  “Laws can embody standards; governments can enforce laws – but the final task is not a task for government. It is a task for each … of us.  Every time we turn our heads the other way when we see the law flouted – when we tolerate what we know to be wrong – when we close our eyes and ears to the corrupt because we are too busy or too frightened – when we fail to speak up and speak out – we strike a blow against freedom and decency and justice.”

As a 10-year California First Amendment Coalition Board of Directors member, I abhor lack of impartial reporting by American newspapers and electronic media. As John Steele Gordon, the author, stated in the Wall Street Journal last July, political neutrality made American newspapers valuable, but most of America’s premier newspapers have abandoned “even the pretense of political neutrality.” Opinion columns belong only in editorials, not a newspaper’s accounts of events. 

A major problem arises from political wars on vocabulary. Words are debased. We are now importuned to “flatten the curve” and “defund the police.” What does that mean? One NBC News reporter announced that property destruction “is not violence.” Speaker Nancy Pelosi issues 45 pages of revised United States House of Representatives’ rules, banning “father” or “daughter,” in favor of “parent” and “child.” Pelosi creates a new Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth. Why? The words “himself” and “herself” are replaced by “themselves” because a woke generation demands gender neutral language. Pelosi and her compliant Democratic-controlled lower house of Congress replaced “mother,” “son,” “brother,” “sister,” “uncle” and “aunt” with “sibling,” etc.  Colleges and universities enforce speech codes, as does the Associated Press (AP), which now bans medical terms such as “insane,” “crazy/crazed,” “nuts” or “deranged,” unless that’s part of a quotation essential to a story. AP reporters must avoid mental health terms and can’t say an “award show was schizophrenic.”

Last December, Providence, Rhode Island revealed that only one in five of its public elementary- and middle-school students satisfied the state’s standards in mathematics and language. Usually, such students are so-called minorities and disproportionately poor. A Wall Street Journal reader on Dec. 23, 2020, observed that if structural racism exists, it arises from “the government monopoly on public schools.”  Meanwhile, United States residents today are almost twice as likely to speak a language other than English at home as residents did in 1980 and 48% in America’s five largest cities speak a foreign language at home, namely, Los Angeles, New York City, Houston, Chicago and Phoenix.  

Our Board of Supervisors announces it will assist the S.F. Unified School District in educating a decreasing number of San Francisco public school pupils by soliciting local corporations for money to fund a nine-member 128th City Hall Commission to preside over yet another bureaucracy, dubbed “Department of Children, Youth and Services.”  

Other ostentatious local commissions, like the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, enhance the fragile status of city governance by considering imposition of residential street parking fees.  Elimination of gasoline-powered vehicles encourages such rapacious treatments of taxpayers.  The street in front of your house was built with State gasoline taxes you pay. That has been California law since 1922.  Our gasoline taxes comprise the highest of 50 states (50.5 cents per gallon!). Three decades ago, some gasoline taxation revenue was diverted to public transit, thus charging automobile drivers for public transit costs to subsidize public transit riders. Gasoline taxation affects gasoline users; it’s a user fee. That’s disregarded by advocates of prohibiting gasoline-powered vehicles in San Francisco by 2027. Those who can afford electric vehicles avoid gasoline taxation which should be based upon mileage driven. Some electric car owners demand gas tax increases while electric car manufacturers and buyers receive state subsidies.

January represented an unusual month at City Hall with no new criminal cases based upon the siren song of City Hall corruption. The district attorney, facing a recall petition, doesn’t care.  Almost 60 years ago on June 21, 1961, then-Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy noted:  “The honesty of many politicians has never been questioned. In fact, it’s never been mentioned.”

Quentin Kopp is a former San Francisco supervisor, state senator, member of the SF Ethics Commission and retired judge.

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