Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Politics are language. Language is politics. I'm learning this more and more in an attempt to analyze the Administration of Change and the way they use language in the same way the last administration did, only to slightly more liberal ends.

I've been acting and writing in character of a wanna-be politician for five years now, since the summer of 2004. It took me until very recently to realize that my character (who shares my name), who was raised on politics in that he watched politicians on TV, and believed that being a politician was about giving lip-service to things rather than understanding the fundamentals of governmental processes, isn't far off. He was based off my own naive hopes to be a politician as a kid (I still have them but realize that my knack for words would be better off putting words into the mouths of fake politicians), which, I think, actually makes him more legit, because, I would imagine, a lot of politicians start out wanting to change but not knowing how. The way journalism students start out thinking they won't be hacks. Oh, journalists.

Language is a huge part of my character - he expresses himself through words, just not well-thought-0ut ones. This is a trait evident even in speeches - not just by Biden, but certainly not excluding his - and not just the improvised rambling of notoriously uncomfortable-sans-cue-cards politicians. Joe Biden spoke at a middle school today on the Recovery Act. There was nothing glaring about what I've had the chance to read of his speech, but the longest line in an excerpt stood out. Just a little.

"We're committed to giving you every chance possible to come up with the best ideas to deal with that dropout to get more kids to college." [From]

There's a lot that can be done with that sentence, and a lot can be taken from it. Though its innocent-seeming enough, let me break it down, as if I were giving the speech. Which I could, and well.

This means I care. No matter what I say or promise in the rest of this sentence, whether it happens or not, I tried. And you'll give me another shot.

This is a statement that is actually more limited than it sounds, but at this point in the sentence, it means that I and the Administration want to enable you to do something. Perhaps with cash. That's positive.

Ahh, well, there you go. What I've just done is promised you that I will enable you to come up with ideas. However, if you're in education, and you can't do this on your own, I should probably be doing my speech in flash cards.

So what's just happened here is that I have told you that I am committed to enabling your idea-coming-up-with skills toward the end of "dealing with" the dropout rate. Forget that you already have your own ideas, and that you're already dealing with it on a regular basis. The money I mentioned, which I haven't technically promised yet, will help you figure out how to deal with the problem. After all, I'm not an educator. Not my job. How can I help the people and systems and kids and deficits who won't help themselves? And let's not forget my subtly folksy tone. Maybe it doesn't translate as well when transcribed, but "that dropout rate" sounds considerably not unlike how Sarah Palin might consider saying that line. "The" dropout rate would be more appropriate, but now I'm just south of personifying it. I've made you feel comfortable, haven't I?

So now that I am determined to allow you to come up with your own ideas on dealing with that pesky ol' dropout rate, I'm delighted to give myself the chance to be comfortable with the opportunity to deliver to me the privilege of leaving the stage before you take it upon yourself to have the initiative to decide for yourselves whether or not to whip yourselves into one of those frenzies.

- Jason C. Klamm

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