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Politicians Have No Right to Cry "Lynching"

11/06/2013 08:09 EST | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST

hyperbole (noun)
A figure of speech in which exaggeration is used for emphasis or effect, as in I could sleep for a year or This book weighs a tonne.

As communications is king in the political arena, it is common for its players to employ language in such a way to get their points across to the masses. While a figure of speech can be effective in some instances, the hyperbole can also be counter-productive if used carelessly, or viciously as it were.

Perhaps the time is right to shed light on the troubling pattern of verbal blunders being perpetuated by tactless militants. It often starts with a gross exaggeration or a sloppy simile based not on common objects, but on ethnicities or racial groups.

Lynch (verb)
To punish (a person) without legal process or authority, especially by hanging, for a perceived offense or as an act of bigotry.

Comparing the weight of an object to a tonne is one thing, but trivializing ethnic groups or their historic symbols is another. Words can wound.

Gaffe-prone Toronto Mayor Rob Ford once attempted to describe the Asian-Canadian community's strong work ethic by comparing them to domesticated mammals. "Those Oriental people work like dogs," he once voiced. Referring to an Aboriginal Senator as "an experiment," as did Sen. Marjory LeBreton, is yet another grave gaucherie in light of the number of Residential School children used as human guinea pigs by Canadian authorities.

Sen. Pamela Wallin was accused of abusing the public purse in the senate expense scandal. The staggering numbers made for national fodder. The Saskatchewan senator admitted to accounting mishaps, paid back her loot and then cried "lynching."

Another product of privilege, embattled Mayor Ford of Toronto, took to the airwaves this weekend to apologize for being drunk on the Danforth, for having an "out of control" St-Paddy's day party in his office, and for dialling while driving. Ford dodged the drug questions. With additional accusations swirling around him, members of the general public and all major news publications have formed a chorus to stop the gravy train wreckrequest Ford's resignation.

The Mayor's family and fans referred to the well-deserved scrutiny as "a lynching." Councillor Doug Ford may want to reconsider referring to people critical of the mayor's behaviour and/or asking direct questions about Rob Ford's alleged drug abuse as a "lynch mob." It is nothing of the sort.

Sen. Pamela Wallin, Mayor Ford and the rest of the entitled lot aren't innocent minorities being burned at the stake. These political figures don't seem to know the difference between ceremonious murder and self-inflicted mayhem.

No physical torture is involved. Zero lives have been lost. They have no right to compare their media scrutiny or professional strife to African slavery, the Holocaust or any other systemic international human catastrophe. It may be a strain for some to exert deference to taxpayers and constituents, but showing linguistic respect for the descendants of organized oppression and genocide is a duty resolute.

Strange Fruit Hanging From Trees

A refresher on lynching; when a whisper of suspected criminal activity could result in an evening spectacle in the form of unimaginable torture:

"The Negro was placed upon a carnival float in mockery of a king upon his throne, and, followed by an immense crowd, was escorted through the city. His clothes were torn off piecemeal and scattered in the crowd, people catching the shreds and putting them away as mementos. [Others] gathered about the Negro as he lay fastened to the torture platform and thrust hot irons into his quivering flesh. It was horrible -- the man dying by slow torture in the midst of smoke from his own burning flesh. Every groan, every contortion of his body, was cheered by the thickly packed crowd of 10,000 persons, the mass of beings 600 yards in diameter, the scaffold being the center. After burning the feet and legs, the hot irons -- plenty of fresh ones being at hand -- were rolled up and down Smith's stomach, back, and arms. Then the eyes were burned out and irons were thrust down his throat. The crowd piled all kinds of combustible stuff around the scaffold, poured oil on it and set it afire. The Negro rolled and tossed out of the mass, only to be pushed back by the people nearest him. He rolled out again and was roped and pulled back." [source]

1930s ThomasShipp_AbramSmith

In the late 19th century, journalist Ida B. Wells's research concluded that many of these murder victims' presumed crimes were exaggerated or did not occur.

It seems some well-heeled politicians have forgotten that they're no longer cloistered in the backrooms of exclusive clubs. The microphone is on. We can hear you. The country is listening. Before tripping up on tar baby talk, culturally tone-deaf legislators should take more care in choosing their tropes.

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