We Must Define Words So They Don’t Define Us

This article was originally published and formatted for Medium.

The more I engage with those who don’t share my views, the more I realize how seldom we actually communicate. We’re much better at talking at one another than we are at talking to one another. Even with the best of intentions, I’ve noticed what’s being said is all too often misunderstood or misinterpreted. I think this happens, in large part, because we assume the words we use will be heard and understood with the same intent and meaning with which they are expressed. This is a mistake.

Language is a blunt tool for expressing complex thoughts and ideas. Keep that in mind the next time you venture to talk religion or politics over Thanksgiving dinner.

Words matter, but the way we define them and use them matters just as much, if not more so. This is especially true when we use words that have become so politically charged their mere utterance provokes a visceral, emotional reaction. If we continue to ignore the fact that language is nuanced and words often mean different things to different people — especially those “across the aisle” — we have no hope of ever understanding one another.

Before I dig in, a quick story:

A dear friend of mine, a photographer I’ve been working with for years (he’s one of the best), is basically a communist. I am grateful he does not have too many communist friends or we might have problems. But I digress… I once asked this friend to review a speech I’d written, to help me understand how those words would be understood by people “like him” (I’m always focused on my large communist following). He read it — the speech I gave at Restoring Love, which I thought was pretty good — and all he said was, “You never said the word ‘love.’”

“The whole speech is about love,” I said.

“But you don’t use the word ‘love.’ You need to,” he replied.

He was right…

Words matter.

I have to get better at defining the language I use and hearing the point someone else is making, despite using terms that I may inherently and unknowingly define differently.

So, as I start to engage on Medium, I think it could be helpful to define some of the terms I often use to describe the ideological spectrum of American politics. These are words we all use, but I’m guessing we don’t fully comprehend what they mean to one another. To be clear, I don’t think of myself as some kind of authority — Noah Webster I am not… But in hopes of having a productive conversation, I thought I’d explain the way I use and define them.

Anyone who watches, reads or listens to what I say will be familiar with my take. But Medium is an entirely new community for me. I’m guessing we don’t know each other very well, which is one of the main reasons I decided to create an account — to reach out to and engage those who would probably never seek me out on their own.

A ‘liberal’ — what does the word mean?

To me, a liberal, is a person who is primarily motivated by a concern for the rights of certain vulnerable groups, and looks to government action — typically federal, but also state — to liberate or defend those groups against oppression by society’s rich and powerful. A liberal is also concerned with fairness and believes society should strive to achieve equality for all in opportunity, if not circumstance. A liberal believes it is the government’s duty to defend our civil rights and individual liberties and to safeguard its citizens from societal ills like poverty and discrimination.

When described as such, it is easy to have a positive response. As someone who identifies as a constitutional conservative and libertarian, I cringe at the government’s accumulation of power and authority and believe, at the end of the day, “We the People” have a greater likelihood of achieving this form of liberalism than through a bloated bureaucracy. But setting aside my views on “how” it should be achieved, it’s hard to argue with the goals.

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Of course it’s important for society to combat societal ills, safeguard liberties, protect individual rights and strive to create equal opportunities for all. I realize some people think I’m a monster, but come on — who can be against this?

Limiting the definition of liberal to the bolded print above shows just how much common ground we have to stand on. We all have the same goal: Progress. We just have radically different ways of getting there.

What is a constitutional conservative?

A constitutional conservative (CC) views the U.S. Constitution as an inspired document. The CC believes the Constitution appropriately defines the role of government and the scope of its power — limited (especially federal).

The CC is motivated by a concern for individual rights and liberties and a disdain for oppression — especially oppression at the hands of government. This puts the CCs at odds with their liberal neighbors, who often see government power not as something to fear, but rather as a helpful tool to affect societal change. The CC is also concerned with fairness. Yes, society should strive to create an equal playing field. You should reap what you sow. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Obviously, there are divergences between liberals and CC. That’s okay. I can be neighbors, friends, colleagues — you name it — with a liberal. And for those who know me personally and not the caricature I’ve been turned into, they know they could be the same to me, too.

A liberal and a conservative who strive for the same end but simply disagree on the means can eventually find shared causes and goals to achieve common ground.

But there is a different word that mucks it all up…

Progressivism.

Recently — and I mean very recently (not the Woodrow Wilson era) — liberals, seeing a need to update their choice of words, began adding the word “progressive” to their vocabulary. Progressivism used to be defined as a more aggressive form of liberalism — in essence, Marxism. Liberals made a conscious effort to rebrand themselves as progressives for the express purpose of marketing. (Which, by the way, was very smart. We on the right need to figure out new words that carry less baggage as well.)

The word liberal, to me, does not mean anything anymore — and frankly, neither does conservatism. (At times, I describe myself as an adherent to classical liberalism as defined and lived by people like John Locke and Adam Smith.)

This is where progressivism comes in. I do not believe liberals have cornered the market on progressivism.

In a speech I gave at the 2010 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), I felt compelled to call out the progressives in the GOP. My speech went over so well they refused to invite me back again until this past year — and that only happened after a change in leadership. I did not make many friends that day in 2010.

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WATCH: Glenn Beck Calls Progressivism 'the Cancer in America'

Progressivism has power in both parties and both ideologies.

A progressive Republican is basically the same as a progressive liberal (defined above). But instead of relying on government to accomplish liberal ideals, it uses government power to impose conservative principles.

When a progressive Republican — say Utah Senator Todd Weiler — tries to mandate the installation of porn blockers on all mobile phones in his state, this is progressivism.

When a progressive liberal — say President Obama — pressures schools to give transgender students access to whatever bathroom they please, this is progressivism, too.

Please note, I am not arguing whether porn blocker use or transgender bathroom choice is good or bad — we will disagree on one of these or possibly both. Rather, I’m arguing that when government is used as a top-down force by either party, the result will be a divided populace.

You and I, you and your friend, you and your mother-in-law can disagree and still love one another. But when the government forces what it wants upon us, it results in only one thing: A fractured citizenry, where the side that does not support the government’s use of power is labeled hateful, evil, stupid, etc.

Progressivism, regardless of the party, is when government enforces its ideology on the American people.

You may argue that the ends justify the means — but I advocate caution here. If the ends justify the means, when the other party is in power, the pendulum will swing and you will be just as pissed as the other party was previously. And pendulums don’t slow down when they are being abused. They swing harder and farther.

I feel it happening, do you?

My point is not to condemn either party or ideology per se. My point is to first define our words to ensure when we speak, we understand each others’ definitions. We can disagree on the definitions, but at least we will know we are debating the definitions and not the principles.

But more than that — we, as an America divided, have a chance at living together in (relative) peace and harmony if we remove the progressive aspects of our ideology. If we are aware of government-imposed power — which changes based on which party holds each branch of government — and focus on living our own lives without trying to impose our ideology on others, we can once again become a united country.

I am not describing utopia. We will never be a country without differences, but we can be a country that we feel — for the most part — is one people.

One day, it is my dream we will become who we were meant to be — a dysfunctional family that loves one another and accepts one another for who each of us are, as individuals.

Featured Image: Original cartoon created by Pat Cross Cartoons for glennbeck.com. Pat Cross loves drawing, America and the Big Man upstairs.

On the radio program Tuesday, Glenn Beck and Stu Burguiere discussed recent reports that former Vice President Joe Biden's son, Hunter, wasn't the only family member to capitalize on his connections to land an unbelievably lucrative job even though he lacked qualifications or experience.

According to Peter Schweizer's new book, "Profiles in Corruption: Abuse of Power by America's Progressive Elite," Joe Biden's younger brother, Frank, enjoyed the benefit of $54 million in taxpayer loans during the Obama administration to try his hand at an international development venture.

A lawyer by training, Frank Biden teamed up with a developer named Craig Williamson to build a sprawling luxury resort in Costa Rica, which claimed to be on a mission to preserve the country's forests but actually resulted in the decimation of thousands of acres of wilderness.

The then-vice president's brother also reportedly earned hundreds of thousands of dollars as the front man of a for-profit charter school company called Mavericks in Education.

The charter schools, which focused on helping at-risk teens, eventually failed after allegations of mismanagement and a series of lawsuits derailed the dubious business venture.

Watch the video below to get Glenn's take on these latest revelations in the Biden family corruption saga:

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Ryan: Bernie at the disco

Photo by Sean Ryan

Saturday at El Malecón, we waited for the Democratic socialist. He had the wild white hair like a monk and the thick glasses and the booming voice full of hacks and no niceties.

Photo by Sean Ryan

The venue had been redecorated since we visited a few nights before when we chatted with Castro. It didn't even feel like the same place. No bouncy castle this time.

Photo by Sean Ryan

A black curtain blocked the stage, giving the room a much-needed depth.

Behind the podium, two rows of mostly young people, all holding Bernie signs, all so diverse and picturesque and strategic.

Photo by Sean Ryan

Lots of empty seats. Poor showing of Bernie fans for a Saturday afternoon. At one point, someone from Bernie's staff offered us seats in the audience, as if eager to fill up those seats however possible.

There were about 75 people in the dancehall, a place built for reunions and weddings and all those other festivities. But for a few hours on Saturday, August 10, 2019, it turned serious and wild for "Unidos Con Bernie."

Photo by Sean Ryan

People had been murmuring about Sanders' speech from the night before at Wing Ding. By all appearances, he had developed a raving lust to overthrow Trump. He had even promised, with his wife just out of view, that, were he elected, he'd end white nationalism in America. For good.

El Malecón lacked its previous air of celebration. It had undertaken a brooding yet defiant spirit. Media were sparse. Four cameras faced the podium. Three photographers, one of whom had been at nearly all the same events as us. A few of the staffers frowned at an empty row of chairs, because there weren't that many chairs to begin with.

At the entrance, Bernie staff handed out headsets that translated English to Spanish or Spanish to English, depending on who the speaker was. The translators stood behind the bar, 20 feet from the podium, and spoke into a lip-ribbon microphone.

Bernie's staff was probably the coolest, by far. As in, they looked cool and acted stylishly. Jeans. Sandals. Careworn blazers. Tattoos. One lad had a black Levi's shirt with lush crimson roses even though he wasn't a cowboy or a ranch-hand. Mustaches. Quirky hats. A plain green sundress. Some of them wore glasses, big clunking frames.

Photo by Sean Ryan

The outfits were distinctly Bernie. As Bernie as the tie-dyed "BERNIE" shirts for sale outside the club. Or later, at the Hilton, like a Grateful Dead cassette stand.

Immigration was the theme, and everyone in the audience bore some proof of a journey. Because America offers life, freedom, and hope.

Sanders' own father emigrated from Poland to America at 17, a high school dropout who could barely speak English. As a Jew, he'd faced religious persecution.

Within one generation, Bernie Sanders' father contributed to the highest stratum of American society. In one generation, near hopelessness had transformed into Democracy, his son a congressman with a serious chance at the presidency.

Photo by Sean Ryan

That's the beauty of America. Come here broken and empty and gutted and voiceless. And, within your lifetime, you can mend yourself then become a pillar of society. Then, your son can become the President of the United States of America!

Four people gave speeches before Sanders. They took their time, excited and nervous. They putzed. Because how often do you get to introduce a presidential frontrunner?

All the native English speakers jammed their earpieces when the woman with the kind and dark energy took the stage.

Photo by Sean Ryan

She mumbled in Spanish and did not look up and said that, when her parents died, she couldn't go home for the funeral. She fought back tears. She swallowed hard to shock herself calm. And the room engulfed each silence between every word.

It felt more like a therapy session than a political rally. A grueling therapy session at that. Was that what drew people to Bernie Sanders, that deep anguish? That brisk hope? Or, rather, the cessation of it, through Sanders? And, of course, the resultant freedom? Was it what gave Sanders a saintlike ability to lead people into the realm of the confessional? Did he have enough strength to lead a revolution?

Photo by Sean Ryan

While other frontrunners hocked out money for appearances, like the studio lights, Sanders spent money on translators and ear-pieces. The impression I got was that he would gladly speak anywhere. To anyone. He had the transitory energy you can capture in the writings of Gandhi.

Photo by Sean Ryan

I'm not saying he's right or wrong — I will never make that claim, about any of the candidates, because that's not the point of this, not the point of journalism, amen — what I'm saying is he has the brutal energy of someone who can take the subway after a soiree or rant about life by a tractor or chuck it up with Sarah Silverman, surrounded wherever he goes.

Without the slightest fanfare, Sanders emerged from behind the black curtain. The woman at the podium gasped a little. The room suctioned forward when he entered. In part because he was so nonchalant. And, again. That magnetism to a room when a famous or powerful or charming person enters. Not many people have it. Not many can keep it. Even fewer know how to brace it, to cull it on demand. But several of the candidates did. One or two even had something greater.

Photo by Sean Ryan

I'll only say that Bernie had it with a bohemian fervor, like he was a monk stranded in a big city that he slowly brings to God.

"We have a President who, for the first time in my lifetime, who is a President who is a racist," he shouted. "Who is a xenophobe and anti-immigrant. Who is a sexist. Who is a religious bigot. And who, is a homophobe. And, what is very disappointing is that, when we have a President, we do not necessarily expect to agree with him, or her, on every issue. But we do believe that one of the obligations is to bring people to-geth-ah. As Americans."

Photo by Sean Ryan

After listening silently for several minutes, the audience clapped. Their sweet response felt cultish. But, then again, what doesn't feel cultish these days? So this was cultish like memes are cultish, in a striving-to-understand kind of way.

"The essence of our campaign is in fact to bring people together," he said. "Whether they're black, or white, or latino, or Native American, or Asian-American. We understand that we are Americans."

At times, this meant sharing a common humanity. Others, it had a slightly more disruptive feel. Which worked. Sometimes all we want is revolution. To be wild without recourse. To overthrow. To pass through the constraints of each day. To survive. The kind of rowdy stuff that makes for good poetry but destroys credit lines. Sanders radiated with this intensity, like a reclusive philosopher returning to society, from his cave to homes and beds and fences and maybe electricity.

Photo by Sean Ryan

But, as he says, his revolution would involve healthcare and wages and tuition, not beheadings and purges and starvation.

Seeing the Presidential candidates improvise was amazing. They did it constantly. They would turn any of their beliefs into a universal statement. And Sanders did this without trying. So he avoided doing the unbearably arrogant thing of pretending to speak like a native Guatemalan, and he looked at the group of people, and he mumbled in his cloudy accent:

"My Spanish — is not so good."

Photo by Sean Ryan

This is the same and the opposite of President Trump's Everyman way of speaking English like an American. Of speaking American.

Often, you know what Sanders will say next. You can feel it. And, anytime this happened, it brought comfort to the room.

Like, it surprised no one when he said that he would reinstate DACA on his first day in office. It still drew applause.

But other times, he expressed wild ideas with poetic clarity. And his conclusions arrived at unusual junctures. Not just in comparison to Republicans. To all of them. Bernie was the Tupac of the 2020 election. And, to him, President Trump was Suge Knight, the evil force behind it all.

"Donald Trump is an idiot," he shouted.

Photo by Sean Ryan

Everybody loved that. Everybody clapped and whooped and some even whistled like they were outside and not in a linoleum-floor dancehall.

"Go get 'em, Bernie," someone in the back shouted.

This was the only Sanders appearance with no protestors.

"Let me say this about the border," he shouted. And everybody listened to every thunking syllable. He probably could have spoken without a mic. Booming voice. Loud and clear. Huddling into that heavy Vermont slug accent.

They'll say many many things about Bernie. One being, you never had to lean forward to hear him. In person, even more so. He's less frail. More dynamic.

Photo by Sean Ryan

Despite the shoddiness of the venue, there was a sign language interpreter. Most of the rallies had a designated interpreter.

"If you work 40 hours a week you shouldn't be living in poverty," he shouted, provoking chants and applause from the audience, as if he were talking about them. Maybe he was.

An anecdote about the people at an emergency food shelf blended into the livable wage of $15 an hour. He shifted into his spiel about tuition-free college and pointed at the audience, "You're not doing well," then at the kids behind him, "they are." He craned his head sideways and back. "Do your homework," he told said.

Laughter.

Half of the kids looked like they hadn't eaten in days. Maybe it was their unusual situation, a few feet from Bernie Sanders at a stucco community center.

Before the room could settle, Sanders wove through a plan for how to cancel debt.

Did he have a solution?

Tax Wall Street, he shouted.

Photo by Sean Ryan

And he made it sound easy. "Uno dos trey," he said. "That's my Spanish for today."

A serious man, he shoved through his speech like a tank hurtling into dense jungle. He avoided many of the typical politician gimmicks. Proof that he did not practice every expression in front of a mirror. That he did not hide his accent. That he did not preen his hair. That he did not smile for a precise amount of time, depending on the audience. That he did not pretend to laugh.

Photo by Sean Ryan

He laughed when humor overtook him. But it was genuine. With none of the throaty recoil you hear in forced laughter.

"I want everyone to take a deep breath," he said. And a palpable lightness spread through the room, because a deep breath can solve a lot of problems.

Photo by Sean Ryan

Then he roused some more. "Healthcare is a human right," he shouted. "A human privilege," he shouted. He told them that he lives 50 miles from the Canadian border in Burlington, Vermont, and healthcare works better up north.

Each candidate had a bad word, and Sanders' was "corporate."

Photo by Sean Ryan

At every speech, he mentioned "corporate media" with the same distrust and unpleasantness that conservatives derive from the term "mainstream media." Another would be "fake news," as popularized by Sanders' sworn enemy. Either way it's the same media. Just different motivations that irk different people.

But the discrepancies varied. Meaning two opposing political movements disliked the same thing, but for opposite reasons.
It sounded odd, Sanders' accusation that the media were against him. The media love Bernie. I can confirm this both anecdotally and judiciously. Yes, okay, in 2016, the media appeared to have sided with Hillary Clinton. As a result, Sanders was publicly humiliated. Because Clinton took a mafioso approach to dealing with opponents, and Sanders was her only roadblock.

Imagine if a major political organization devoted part of each day to agitating your downfall. And then you fail. And who's fault is it?

Sanders wanted to know: those negative ads targeting him, who paid for them?

Photo by Sean Ryan

Corporations, of course. Corporations that hated radicals like him. And really was he so radical? He listed off the possibilities: Big pharma, insurance companies, oil companies.

Because he had become a revolutionary, to them. To many.

He said it with certainty, although he often didn't have to say it at all. This spirit of rebellion had become his brand. He would lead the wild Americans into a utopia.

But just as quickly, he would attack. Trump, as always, was the target.

He called Trump the worst president in American history.

"The fates are Yuge," he shouted.

The speech ended as informally as it had begun. And Sanders' trance over the audience evaporated, replaced by that suction energy. Everyone rushed closer and closer to the man as Neil Young's "Keep on Rockin in the Free World" blared. Sanders leaned into the podium and said, "If anyone wants to form a line, we can do some selfies."

Photo by Sean Ryan

It was like meeting Jesus for some of the people.

There he was, at El Malecón. No stage lights, no makeup, no stylist behind the curtain. Just him and his ideas and his erratic hand commotion.

Then a man holding a baby leaned in for a photo. He and Sanders chatted. And, I kid you not, the whole time the baby is staring at Bernie Sanders like he's the image of God, looking right up at him, with this glow, this understanding.

Bernie, if you're reading this, I'd like to suggest that — if this election doesn't work for you — you could be the next Pope.

New installments come Mondays and Thursdays. Check out my Twitter. Email me at kryan@blazemedia.com

On the "Glenn Beck Radio Program" Monday, Harvard Law professor and lawyer on President Donald Trump's impeachment defense team Alan Dershowitz explains the history of impeachment and its process, why the framers did not include abuse of power as criteria for a Constitutional impeachment, why the Democrats are framing their case the way they are, and what to look for in the upcoming Senate trial.

Dershowitz argued that "abuse of power" -- one of two articles of impeachment against Trump approved by House Democrats last month -- is not an impeachable act.

"There are two articles of impeachment. The second is 'obstruction of Congress.' That's just a false accusation," said Dershowitz. "But they also charge him, in the Ukraine matter, with abuse of power. But abuse of power was discussed by the framers (of the U.S. Constitution) ... the framers refused to include abuse of power because it was too broad, too open-ended.

"In the words of James Madison, the father of our Constitution, it would lead presidents to serve at the will of Congress. And that's exactly what the framers didn't want, which is why they were very specific and said a president can be impeached only for treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors," he added.

"What's alleged against President Trump is not criminal," added Dershowitz. "If they had criminal issues to allege, you can be sure they would have done it. If they could establish bribery or treason, they would have done it already. But they didn't do it. They instead used this concept of abuse of power, which is so broad and general ... any president could be charged with it."

Watch the video below to hear more details:



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On Friday's radio program, Bill O'Reilly joins Glenn Beck discuss the possible outcomes for the Democrats in 2020.

Why are former President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama working overtime to convince Americans they're more moderate than most of the far-left Democratic presidential candidates? Is there a chance of a Michelle Obama vs. Donald Trump race this fall?

O'Reilly surmised that a post-primary nomination would probably be more of a "Bloomberg play." He said Michael Bloomberg might actually stand a chance at the Democratic nomination if there is a brokered convention, as many Democratic leaders are fearfully anticipating.

"Bloomberg knows he doesn't really have a chance to get enough delegates to win," O'Reilly said. "He's doing two things: If there's a brokered convention, there he is. And even if there is a nominee, it will probably be Biden, and Biden will give [him] Secretary of State or Secretary of Treasury. That's what Bloomberg wants."

Watch the video below to catch more of the conversation:

Use code BECK to save $10 on one year of BlazeTV.

Want more from Glenn Beck?

To enjoy more of Glenn's masterful storytelling, thought-provoking analysis and uncanny ability to make sense of the chaos, subscribe to BlazeTV — the largest multi-platform network of voices who love America, defend the Constitution and live the American dream.