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.

main-pat-cross-cartoons-words-matter-2

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.

Screen Shot

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.

Former Democratic presidential candidate and Hawaii representative Tulsi Gabbard and Glenn Beck don't agree much on policy, but they're in lockstep on principles.

On "The Glenn Beck Podcast" this week, Tulsi spoke with Glenn about one of her last acts in Congress, introducing the "Protect Women's Sports Act," which she says would "strengthen, clarify, and uphold the intent of Title IX to provide a level playing field for girls and women in sports." But since then, the Biden administration has gone in the opposite direction, and has supported allowing biological men to compete in women's sports.

Watch the video clip below to hear why Tulsi took a stand for female athletes:


Watch the full interview with Tulsi Gabbard here.

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.

Later this week, former President Trump will attend CPAC and give his first major policy appearance since leaving office. Sources close to the President reveal he will focus on "the future of the Republican Party and the conservative movement."

The future of the GOP is a question that demands real discussion before elections in 2022 and 2024. Right now, I can see three possible answers for how you act:

  1. Those in power and senior positions will ignore the reasons behind Donald Trump winning in 2016. They will be vindicated in their minds because they outlasted him, as they view DC as a job for life. These leaders will go back to business as usual and seek forgiveness from the left, hoping for unity and acceptance in the future.
  2. The second outcome is another section of the party that is understandably very angry over the left's Presidents treatment. They still support and believe in Trump. They think it's time to take off the gloves and treat Biden/the left exactly how they treated Trump.
  3. The few policy positions offered in public will be centered solely around opposing the left. They will also make the case how the left suck, are dangerous, and how you need them in power. The next four years are merely a countdown for Trump to run again and right the wrong of 2020.
  4. The third outcome is very similar to the second, but with one key difference. While they appreciate everything Trump accomplished while in office, they feel it's time to unite behind another candidate.
Question

Which of these three positions will work best for the American people? Which helps built a political base for elections in both 2022 and 2024?

If you seek to help save America, it is critical to do some soul searching. Whether you love or hate him, Donald Trump got 75 million votes and made advancements in key demographics. What did he do well that you can develop further? In what areas was he poor, and how can you improve?

I want to raise six principled points everyone on the right should be forced to consider in the run-up to 2024.

1 - Understanding American Exceptionalism

FACT: America is an exceptional nation. If you read enough of world history, you will find ample evidence that America acted in ways that made it unique and significantly different from other countries in the past and modern times. These reasons must be understood and promoted through the culture and body politic.

One of those reasons is the layout of your Declaration of Independence. If you look around politics today, you will see people on all political sides telling you what they hate, why the other side is the enemy, and how they must be defeated.

In the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson also made that case against the English when he listed 27 grievances against the King. So how is the layout key? It took Jefferson 357 words to get to those grievances. Your Declaration is your mission statement: it tells everyone in the world what America aspires to be. It states the belief that all were created equal, all had certain rights that come directly from God, and that it is the government's job to protect rights -- not give people rights.

The left is successfully painting everyone on the right to be a terrorist who enjoyed the Capitol Hill riots. If you ever want to win another election, it will be critical to explain what you stand for to the American people.

After all, ask yourself which makes you the most passionate to vote - removing someone from office or voting for a vision and change you believe in?

2 - The Constitution

Is there a better place to start this vision than the Constitution? Yes, it is mostly ignored today by those in power and is only referenced by politicians and media when it fits a narrative.

The Constitution is a beautiful and complex document but is primarily based on a straightforward principle. The government should be extremely limited in its power, but it should be as close to the people as possible where there is a clear need for government. Who can argue with this principle?

Who wants someone they have never met, dictating how they live their life?

This is why the Constitution grants the President no real power, and gives Congress 18 clauses of power, listed under Article 1, Section 8. Any and every power not mentioned there belongs at the state level.

3 - Finances

The power structure in DC has changed many times over the last twenty years, with both parties having the opportunity to rule the different federal branches. There have been two periods where one party controlled all the power in DC:

  • 2008-2010: Obama / Dem
  • 2016-2018: Trump / GOP

Despite these changes, your government continually grows, you continue to spend money you don't have, and in ten out of the last thirteen years, you have added over $1,000,000,000,000 to your national debt, which now sits just under $28 trillion. Does this seem sustainable to you? Of course not, but sadly your finances only get worse.

America has revenue of over $3.2 trillion every year, yet DC has not passed a budget since 2008. Can you imagine any business running that way? Do you think Apple, Amazon, or Disney have a budget? It is time to get America on a path to financial sustainability, work towards a balanced budget, and explain to the American people how you will achieve it.

4 - Taxes

Do you remember discussing taxes during the Tea Party?

We used to make the simple moral case to the American people: any money you earn is yours, you should use it to plan your life, and the government has no right to take it from you. This was so successful around 2012 that Herman Cain ran for President with one primary policy: the 9-9-9 plan.

If America is to return to prosperity after Covid, lower taxes and a simpler tax code must be a central theme.

5 - Cutting Government

Look at the size of the US government in 2021. Are you happy? Can you name the numerous departments? Is it now the freedom-loving Americans' position that agencies like Education, Energy, EPA, and Commerce are constitutional bodies of government and are well-run?

How about the IRS, which targeted Tea-Party groups under President Obama? Do they deserve support, or is it time to start sharing a vision of the departments that should be abolished?

This principle used to be a big part of the Conservative platform. It played a massive role in 2012 when Rick Perry ran for President. His campaign was destroyed in 45 short seconds when he could not remember the three agencies he would abolish.

Maybe it's time to refresh this debate but change the parameters. How about we discuss the agencies that should be kept?

6 - Bill of Rights

Today, the Bill of Rights is under constant attack. The far-left/woke mob hates free speech, and they seek to cancel anyone with an opposing view. However, the attacks on the Bill of Rights don't always come from the left.

America has a second amendment that guarantees you the right to bear arms. The last time the GOP held both houses of Congress and the Presidency, they banned bump stocks - but who really NEEDS a bump stock?

As the years have passed, some have admitted they are open to red flag laws. Is this still the case?

While the second amendment may be under attack, it is clear the fourth amendment is dead. Regardless of which party holds power in DC, the NSA is given continuous ability to spy on Americans. The simple, principled case from Rand Paul of "get a warrant" always falls on deaf ears.

The Bill of Rights should be a unifying document for most Americans, as the principles are self-evident and a significant part of any freedom platform going forward.

Conclusion

America will face significant challenges over the coming years. As the government continues to grow, the far left get more hostile, and central planners seek a great reset. If you share my concern, then now is the time to forget our tribes and ignore the debate on who should be President in 2024.

It's time to work hard to build a platform by raising a banner of bold colors, not pale pastels. We must share a clear vision to the American people of a bright future where they are free, prosperous, and can pursue their happiness.

When the platform is built and successful, people can identify the best candidate to run in 2024.

"First, you win the argument, and then you win the election." — Margaret Thatcher

Jonathon Dunne is a keynote speaker, weekly podcast host on Blaze Media, and published author on major platforms such as The Blaze, Glenn Beck, Libertarian Republic, Western Journalism, and Constitution. Since 2012, he has reached millions with his message of American exceptionalism.

You can find him on social media – Facebook, Twitter, MeWe

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is under fire for questioning President Joe Biden's nominee for an assistant health secretary position, Dr. Rachel Levine, about her alleged support for giving children puberty blockers and sex-change surgeries.

During a confirmation hearing Thursday, Paul pointedly asked Levine, who is a transgender woman, about her support for allowing children to change their sex, and whether she believes children are capable of making such life-altering decisions.

Levine evaded the question, answering instead with a vague statement about the complexities of transgender medicine, which she would again reiterate for Paul's subsequent questions.

Watch a video clip of the confirmation hearing here.

Predictably, Paul has been labeled "transphobic" and accused of trying to derail Levine with "transphobic misinformation" by the leftist media.

On the Glenn Beck Radio Program Friday, Paul said his questioning Levine had nothing to do with who she is or the fact that she is a transgender adult, but was about the question of gender changes for children.

"The interesting thing is, none of it was directed towards her personally or who she is. It was directed towards the question of whether children can consent. And this is an intellectual question. It's not an inflammatory question. It's a question of serious consequences," he explained. "Most people would argue that children can't really make an informed consent. You know, we have laws against a man having sex with a 12-year-old, even if the 12-year-old says 'yes', because we don't think a 12-year-old is capable of consenting. They just aren't old enough to make the decision."

Paul went on to add, "I guess the danger is, you have to have some chutzpah. You have to have some guts, some courage to stand up because it is a culture out there where ... everybody is saying I made transphobic comments yesterday. All I did was ask whether a minor could consent to this kind of dramatic surgery. Nothing I ever said was hateful. I said nothing hateful about these people. I said nothing hateful about adults who choose to do this. But the culture is out there is so strong that so many in office are afraid to speak out. And it's getting worse.

"There's a handful of us that will speak out in the Senate. There's a handful in the House, and we just have to grow our ranks. But we have to resist or it just will roll over us. And we'll live in this terrible cancel culture world where nobody speaks out, and everybody is afraid to say anything."

Watch the video below to catch more of the conversation:

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.

Far away fields are always greener.

It is easy to look at someone else's life or another country and wish you were more like them.

Americans can be guilty of this. It could be Bernie Sanders wishing America was politically more like Sweden or other European socialist countries. It could be an American who finds out I'm Irish, been trying to move to America for over 17 years, and thinks, "Oh Jonathon, Ireland is a lovely free country - stay there. America has problems right now. You would not like it here."

Today, I want to take you on a journey and compare our nations' attitudes toward Coronavirus and the policies currently in place for "our protection."

I would also ask you to imagine you were in my shoes. Ask yourself which country you would want to live in.

Role of Government

Before discussing restrictions, it is critical to understand the very different governmental systems within our two countries. America is blessed to have a federalist system where states have considerable control over what happens in their states. DC, in theory, holds very little power.

Ireland is the exact opposite. We are a democracy with a big centralized government. The vast majority of power lies with our Taoiseach (Prime Minister) and his cabinet. Local states have no control, as our restrictions are countrywide.

America
  • America's restrictions vary from state to state. You will find the majority of businesses are open but operating with some restrictions.
  • Churches, malls, retail, gyms, cinemas are mostly all open.
  • Bars and restaurants are open but usually at a reduced capacity.
  • Schools have moved to online learning.
  • No travel limits.
  • Travel between states is allowed, but some states like Alaska require a negative Covid test.
  • Guests are allowed in homes, but some states have a limit (but not enforced).
  • Masks are either advised or mandatory in different states.
  • Social distancing is required.

When researching this article, the most prominent complaints were restrictions on visiting loved ones in hospitals and nursing homes. These restrictions have upset many people because you have a proud history of believing in individual freedoms. The government is not your parent and does not have a right to tell you how to live.

Now let me introduce you to Ireland.

Ireland

Ireland is currently on the highest level of lockdown possible and has been since Christmas Eve. We are officially on lockdown until March 5th, and our lockdown is getting more severe. Our government has already confirmed lockdown will be extended until After Easter.

Ireland has a stay-at-home order in place, and you are to work from home where possible.

  • "Essential" retail is open but with stupid rules. Some of our shops are half-open and half-closed. Imagine a Walmart that is allowed to sell food, but large parts of the clothing section are closed because they are not deemed essential.
  • Non-essential retail is now fully closed. At the start of lockdown, outlets were allowed to offer a click-and-collect service – but that has now been banned.
  • Gyms and cinemas are all closed. Ø Bars and restaurants are closed and unlikely to re-open until mid-summer.
  • Schools have moved to online learning.
  • No guests are allowed in homes or gardens.
  • Masks are mandatory and with fines.
  • Social distancing is required.
  • Churches are allowed to open for private prayer, but the mass is strictly online. This has caused a lot of distress for families. Ireland is a Catholic country. I know many older people who have not received communion since last March. My mother is a funeral director and has witnessed the pain caused to families, as only ten people are allowed to attend a funeral, regardless of the Church's size. Imagine a large family deciding what ten people can attend? How do you choose that? Sadly, the Irish Church is spineless and accepts every rule the government passes.
Additional Tyranny

Very few businesses are open right now, but that is not the end of the restrictions. There are limits on how far you can travel. I am currently off my work because of Coronavirus restrictions. There are two legal reasons I can leave my house: personal exercise/walk the dog and to purchase food/essential items from the store. These activities must be completed within three miles of my house.

My human right to privacy has also been crushed. If I decided to get in my car tomorrow and just drive, I would encounter several police checkpoints where I would have to disclose where I live, where I am going, and the purpose of my trip. If the trip is not essential, I will be told to return home and likely given a fine.

Tyranny North Korea Style!

Most countries have border controls, all with similar intent: control who enters the nation, set how long they can stay, and mandate what they can do.

The one exception to this rule is North Korea. Their intent is not to control who enters. Instead, they seek to ensure no one leaves and defects to the South.

As you can imagine, life in Ireland is not exactly pleasurable with the above restrictions. This is especially the case for people like me who suffer from severe depression and are desperate to escape.

If tomorrow I woke up and decided I want out (which I very much do) and found a country I could enter legally, I AM NOT ALLOWED TO LEAVE.

The Irish government has deemed all international travel is not essential and has placed police at all our ports and our airports. If I attempt to go to the airport, I would be greeted at a police checkpoint outside the airport, told my journey is not essential, and sent home with a fine. Currently, the fine is €500 ($600). New legislation is being discussed in parliament to increase the penalty to €2,000.

The police have new powers for people who get past the checkpoints and continue to travel overseas. When they return to Ireland, they can be sent to jail for a month. They will also have a criminal record – that record would likely disqualify the person traveling to countries like America and Australia.

Irish People

I could talk to you all day long about why America is unique and exceptional. There are so many different reasons. One of the reasons is your people, and I highlight Alexis de Tocqueville's sentiments, who said, "America is great because Americans are good." Americans have this rebellious streak in their soul, and it can be traced all the way back to the Pilgrims on the Mayflower. This great spirit is based on being an independent sovereign individual and wanting to live life to the fullest and not be stopped or controlled by ANY government.

Irish people are good and decent. However, they do not share the same characteristics. They believe and support government control because it is all they have ever known.

If you ask the average Irish person about the current government, he will likely tell you he dislikes one of the parties involved or an individual leader. Yet, ask that same person what he thinks about the restrictions, and he will defend them. I hear some say they believe the government has not done enough.

On the rare occasions that people break restrictions, the most significant backlash will likely come from the community, as they brand those people selfish and irresponsible.

Going Forward

The damage from Covid is going to be around forever. Our actions have caused damage to our mental health and the economy (with businesses closing and jobs lost). This will cause poverty. This is made worse by governments' reckless spending and borrowing of money we simply do not have.

However, I would argue we have a much bigger problem stemming from Covid: social acceptance of governmental control in a "crisis."

When a government is powerful enough to compel someone not to leave their house, define their job as non-essential, or tell someone they can't hug their grandparent, what exactly is off-limits? What control or power is a line government won't cross for the "common good"?

Most importantly, do you think governments worldwide will fix this issue and give back the powers they have taken? Or is it more likely we will just move onto a new crisis – maybe climate change or the Great Reset?

This is why the world needs America. We don't need the American military to intervene and save us.

We NEED America to rediscover why you are an exceptional nation. We NEED you to be the statue of liberty shining out the beacon of light, hope, and freedom for the world where your actions remind all of us what is possible when we unleash the energy and individual genius of mankind. If we work hard to reapply these principles, we can take another 5,000-year leap forward together.

Writers note: The policies listed here are based solely on Ireland. However, you see very similar restrictions in England and throughout Europe.

Jonathon Dunne is a keynote speaker, weekly podcast host on Blaze Media, and published author on major platforms such as The Blaze, Glenn Beck, Libertarian Republic, Western Journalism, and Constitution. Since 2012, he has reached millions with his message of American exceptionalism.

You can find him on social media – Facebook, Twitter, MeWe