George & Wendy Show

Wendy Parker

Why language is important

My mom wasn’t one of the “Use your words” kind of moms. She practiced the brand of parenting that wasn’t really concerned with using words as making you use your head for something other than a hat rack. When she looked at me intently, with a wrinkled brow and true wonder in her eyes and said, “What is wrong with you?”, she was not seeking a verbal answer, but leading me to the internal realization that whatever weird thing I’d done was unacceptable, no matter what crafted communication I came up with as rebuttal.

I grew up in the late ’60s/early ’70s. Parenting methods were being discussed, all kinds of different ideas about education and allowing children to express themselves came about. One of my most cognizant memories as a five-year-old was my father’s horror when I asked him if a pumpkin seed was a sperm. After he nearly choked to death on the roasted pumpkin seeds we were enjoying, before my apparently shocking question, I remember him being really angry that the “hippie chick” next door had read a group of kids at the playground a book about conception, and where I had heard the word, which was the first question he squeaked out when he was able to speak again. I have no memories of even a vague understanding of what Linda was talking about, but I was enamored of the word sperm and the fact she called them “seeds.”

“Language matters, Linda.”

I will live a thousand years before I forget my dad, in plaid dress slacks, white work shirt and horrible polyester tie, with his long, black hair and super-’70s mustache, having a very heated conversation with Linda, the hippie chick in her swirling, tie-dyed muumuu, about when and where it was appropriate for children to be taught about conception. I will never forget him saying, “Language matters, Linda. You don’t talk to little kids like that.”

The only thing remotely pertinent about that entire story is it was immediately brought to mind when I came up with the title to today’s piece. And the fact that Linda’s rebuttal was based on “only appropriate terms” being used in her bid at educating the neighborhood on where babies came from. Also, my dad rocked the ’70s look, and had mutton chops any fashionable guy would have been proud of.

The fact is, language does matter. We all know if Linda had been crazy enough to unleash what she thought was a bunch of “free thinking and being in tune” education about conception in a playground nowadays, she’d be locked up.

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Language matters, especially when crafting laws. You see, laws are a lot like lies, the more specific and convoluted you make them the easier it is for them to be picked apart. Good laws are basic and follow the true principal in the necessity of having it. Laws that are made in haste, with specific language in them for no reason other than easy passage, unwittingly provide defense for the truly seasoned and well-informed criminal.

Make no mistake. People involved in human trafficking are seasoned and well-informed criminals. When you provide them any cracks in the law, they will use them to re-offend. Regardless of the efforts and advances in law enforcement, it is still a very profitable and lucrative business that a lot of states have soft laws on. Providing anyone the ability to slip past the maximum penalties in any way is foolish, especially when it comes to professional transportation licenses.

Language matters, Senators Thune, Nelson and Klobuchar. It matters enough for us to oppose the specific targeting of a CMV license in your human trafficking bill and to speak up about it. We urge you, once again, to re-visit the thought that only a CMV should be restricted for life upon conviction, and include all professional transportation license. We urge you to do this in fairness, and in the spirit of the true principal of the law. Do not give the traffickers free lanes of transportation for re-offending.

Now I’ll be willing to bet that’s the first time there was a plea to a group of senators that included a story about a five-year-old latching on to the word “sperm,” but I’ll also bet you don’t forget it soon.

Do the right thing. Fix the bill. Language matters.

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