Pathetic Epithets: Republican Language

Those of you who were schooled in America in the days of my youth inevitably were taught at least some Greek mythology. And you surely learned about Homeric epithets, those canonical names for gods or mortals or things, adjectives so characteristic of them that they were always associated with them in Homeric verse. Familiar examples are “rosy-fingered Dawn,” “swift-footed Achilles,” “bright-eyed Athene,” and so on. You know the drill.

It occurred to me in reading a Krugman column, Springtime for Toxics, that today’s Republicans create epithets in their focus-group-tested campaign language. The one that started my train of thought was “job-killing regulations.” Does any GOPer ever speak of regulations without prefixing “job-killing”?

Krugman is writing about the EPA’s new regulations on mercury, one of the most toxic substances around, and a common emission from older coal-fired power plants. From its emission into the atmosphere, mercury finds its way into the water, where it is transformed by microbes into methylmercury, in which form it endangers children and fetuses and women of childbearing age. Mercury is really evil stuff; it can damage the nervous systems of young humans to a point of limiting their intellect.

So… are regulations on mercury emissions “job-killing regulations”? Do GOPers oppose them? Is the Pope Catholic? Do wild bears… you get the idea. The answer is emphatically Yes, Republicans want to kill these regulations.

But won’t it affect their children too? My best guess is that it would, but from the time a GOPer child is born, it is taught that water comes out of a small plastic bottle, after being filtered to within an inch of its life. Seriously… I really don’t know how GOPers think their own spawn will avoid the deleterious effects of environmental havoc which Republicans themselves wreak. But as Krugman points out, anti-environmentalism has become a new de facto required position of every Republican candidate for high office. And the Democrats, especially Obama, aren’t doing a damned thing to stop them from pursuing anti-environmental laws.

Will this regulation survive? I doubt it. Republican lobbyists’ money will whisper… nay, shout… in Mr. Obama’s ear, and he’ll fold like a wallet. Watch in the next few months and see if I’m not right.

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  • MandT  On Monday December 26, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    Well written Steve. At least we can bring some poetic irony in honor of the Greeks to our tragedy.

    • Steve  On Tuesday December 27, 2011 at 11:08 am

      Thanks, MandT. I wish we could do more, but I suspect that in the long run, our nation will burn coal and oil until no healthy person lives anywhere in the country. It is of course a political matter, but as some interests are more equal than others (especially in Obama’s book), I despair of any reasonable transition off of fossil fuels. If we’d started when the problem first became apparent, we could be done with the solution within our lifetimes. Now? Who knows!

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