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Wednesday, 24 April 2013


Mannie Sherberg
Many years ago, George Steiner -- in his classic "Language and Silence" -- wrote brilliantly about the utter degradation the Nazis had wrought upon the German language. As one of his examples, he used the German "spritzen" -- "to spatter or spray" -- and asked how it was possible ever again to use the word innocently since, during the Holocaust, it had become an SS code-word for placing a pistol against a Jew's head, pulling the trigger, and then enjoying the sight of a once-human brain spattering in all directions. I thought of Steiner's example while reading your post, Yael, and realized that the once-innocent "gala" -- "a festive celebration" -- is now used to describe a fundraiser for money to be spent in building abbatoirs and butchering babies. Our culture is doing to the English language precisely what the Nazis did to German. And those of us who cherish the language are helpless to do anything about it. After all, the Planned Parenthood event will be festive, large sums of money will be raised, and the crowd will be in a celebratory mood -- especially when Obama delivers one of his stemwinders. So the word "gala" truly applies, doesn't it? But we're still stuck with the nagging question: Can a people survive such corruption of their language? The glib answer, of course, would be that the Germans survived and so will we Americans. But in what sense did the Germans survive? To this day, Germany is largely a nation in denial of its past. Is that what's in store for us? As the members of Planned Parenthood traipse off to their gala, and as our Fundraiser-in-Chief prepares himself to bask in the glow of the tumultuous applause he'll receive, this question should haunt all of us: What are we -- the American people -- doing to ourselves? Can we truly survive when a "gala" becomes a celebration of murder?

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