There are some terms in the English language, most if not all of which are recently coined, that immediately tarnish any argument that employs them. When you hear or read one of these terms, you know it immediately, which is in no way a good thing. That’s because they tend to tell you everything you need to know about the stance of the author on the issue in question.
And no matter how hard they try in the course of their argument to convince you that they are intelligent and deserving of your deliberation, you will inevitably place the user of such words onto the lowest and least special rung of their respective ideological ladder. Running across expressions such as the ones I have listed below is much like running across the Hogwarts Sorting Hat — once you do, you know exactly where you stand and that you may as well have cinder blocks cemented to your feet, because you aren’t going anywhere.
1. Income Inequality
In all honesty, I cringe every time I read or hear about “income inequality.” It’s not necessarily that the employer of such words is lacking a righteous argument, though this could often be the case. Rather, the term just doesn’t make any sense, and I seriously doubt that the indiscriminate user is actually of the mind that incomes should be equal in the classical sense.
You may desire to make a valid point about America’s current socioeconomic landscape — for instance that the monstrous U.S. tax code drastically diminishes the ability of the lower and middle class individuals to climb the economic latter. But I implore you: whatever you do, don’t use the words “income” and “equality” in sequence. Equality is not a necessary, desirable quality of incomes, and such a notion will never jive with the traditionally American right to acquire infinite wealth. It doesn’t make sense, and as such, you automatically alienate those individuals who will interpret you as wanting to redistribute their income.
2. Undocumented Immigrant
This politically sculpted term is an undisguised method of describing a person who has unlawfully immigrated to the U.S. without using the word “illegal,” which features prominently in both synonyms “illegal immigrant” and “illegal alien.” This is blatant sugarcoating. And while it sure tastes sweet to the choir, the members of the congregation that are critical of amnesty or otherwise lenient policies don’t have a sweet tooth when it comes to the issue of illegal immigration.
As this example appears to be growing in popularity as of late, I can already hear the intelligent skeptic: “But using the word illegal implies that the immigrant is a bad person. Surely eliminating the stigma associated with the term will help advance a more tolerant attitude toward those who haven’t done anything particularly reprehensible.” This justification is indeed understandable. On the flip side of the same coin, however, sugarcoating America’s immigration issue by reducing it to a lack of paperwork ignores (as the argument ought to go) the severe disparity between what course of action is lawful and what course is just. This can only disservice the immigrants themselves while failing to effectively promote legislative solutions.
3. War on Women
In theory, women make up fifty percent of the American population. Additionally, women gave birth to one hundred percent of Americans. But the last I heard, members of the heartless, cruel, violent, and repressive Republican Party, all of whom have shunned the influential women in their lives, have declared war on these essential members of society. Just when I thought we might be overstretched with the war on poverty and the war on drugs, suddenly we discover ourselves engaged in a great civil war, testing whether our nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated to the proposition that all men are created by women, can long endure.
4. Almost Anything Involving 1% or 99%
The “one percent” is quickly becoming America’s most hated minority, which is in mathematical terms actually a gigantic group of people. In fact, some of the people who use these terms would probably find themselves in the “one percent” if they cared to do the math.
Let’s face it; the memory of Occupy Wall Street isn’t a particularly compelling for wealthy individuals. But that’s not the point. The point is to breed anger and envy in an attempt to push regulations which may or may not be ill-conceived and unmanageably obtrusive. And yet, no matter how you slice it, an argument based on 1% or 99% (and maybe even 47% for that matter) will never be an intellectual argument for such policies.
5. Common Sense Solution
I admit, “common sense solution” does not on its face seem to be politically charged. Certainly less fiery than those listed above, this oft-used term could nevertheless be the most dangerous; it is well-worn, it is used by politicians throughout the spectrum, and it is everywhere.
Thomas Paine’s Common Sense was successful because he “offer[ed] nothing more than simple facts, plain arguments, and common sense,” which according to the oracle known as Wikipedia, took roughly 48 pages to present. Not so with today’s proposed “common sense solutions,” which as their primary qualities require no facts and no argumentative scaffolding whatsoever. Instead, the words “common sense” often fill a small, though significant logical void between problem and solution. If the problem is that people are getting shot, the common sense solution is to increase regulations on gun ownership. If the problem is that an increasing number of belligerent nations express aggression against the U.S., the common sense solution is to bolster the defense budget. The effectiveness of such solutions is irrelevant. After all, it’s just “common sense.” And isn’t it curious how much common sense solutions vary from one side of the aisle to the other?
The above is by no means an exhaustive list of politically charged terms, as even “left” and “right” hold an irritating amount of stigma, but those I have listed above may be some of the most egregious offenders when it comes to killing the intellectual and persuasive value of the arguments in which they appear. The common sense solution: steer clear.