Good Words Ruined – Part One

What has ten letters and means both ‘sacred’ and ‘profane’?
Musings by L.E. Taylor

The road was icy and my attention to the radio was fragmented. The commentator was going on about the IRS Scandal (targeting political enemies with audits), the Benghazi Scandal (who-knew-what, and why did four Americans get murdered?), the NSA Scandal (spying on Americans), the Fast-and-Furious Scandal (guns smuggled to drug cartels), the ACA Scandal (lost health insurance coverage for Americans), and New Jersey’s “Bridge-Gate”.

The dangers of winter driving in Dallas notwithstanding, I became aware that a common qualifier ran through every report, a term that popped out like Whack-a-Mole, locating and defining the context of each outrage: Washington.

Within memory of some Americans the utterance, “Washington” once carried a positive, almost sacred, lustre. It was a proper noun derived from one of the most admired mortals to tread the earth. It bespoke virtue, strength, honor, selfless heroism, wisdom, grace under fire, and divine purpose. The man who bore the name is known to history as The Father of His Country. When the King of England got word that the Commander in Chief of the victorious infant nation had rejected his countrymen’s offer to make him king, George III said, “If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world.”

In the first years of the new Republic people agreed: “Washington – First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.” So, when the marshy tidewater across the Potomac from Mount Vernon was chosen as the site for the new capitol, it followed that it should be called “City of Washington”, to honor the greatest American.

I was mulling all this as I coasted to a safe stop in my sleeted over driveway. Is the world’s good always doomed to be corrupted by man’s venial nature? Answer: What grows uncared for – flowers or weeds?

Since we cannot change the nature of men, for the sake of decency we might consider re-naming that tidewater swamp in the northwest quadrant of the District of Columbia. There is a place just upstream where the Potomac gets narrow and is so shallow that no commerce can navigate.

Seems apt. We could just go back to 1763 and retrieve its original name: Foggy Bottom.

Onward.

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References:

  1. Johnson, Paul; George Washington, the Founding Father; HarperCollins, Publishers, NYC, NY; 2005.
  2. William Bennett; Our Sacred Honor; Simon & Schuster; NYC, NY; 1997.
  3. L.E. Taylor; LETsBlog: http://blog.letaylortheauthor.com; Water the Flowers, Not the Weeds; August 20, 2013.

 

Water the Flowers, Not the Weeds.

A couple of years ago, a friend of mine was hurting. Younger than I by a dozen years, he appeared to be older. “Davey” (not his real name) was nearly crippled by diabetes and its side effects. I made it a point to visit him at least five days a week to go for a drive or to get groceries, to sit in the park and talk about baseball, politics, or nothing. I would call Davey around noon to ask if his afternoon was free. Deeply depressed by his infirmities and by his loneliness and by his apparent failure to ‘get a break,’ Davey would reply with the same lament, “I’ve got no place to go and no way to get there.”

He was also broke.

One day he told me he’d made a list of all his damages as a way of determining the size of the mountain he must climb.

That seemed a poor investment of time and effort. But I’ve learned that sermonizing from a lofty position of apparent stability serves little benefit for one afflicted with misfortune, nor does it help a friendship. So I’d just listen and nod. Continue reading