1000 Things We Hate #105: Pronouns & Country

27 09 2010

While waiting in the Honolulu airport about 2 weeks back, I stumbled across a startling and enticing image on the cover of Time magazine. I am not one to normally purchase printed media materials anymore, but the girl posing for the front cover had had her nose completely removed, and I thought, this is a controversy someone will talk about. So I bought it. However, it was not the cover article that stood out the most; no it was one by a Mr. Klein on the war that is currently ensuing in the Middle East. Now, I do not claim to know anything at all about Mr. Klein, nor do I care to pass judgment on him as a journalist, in fact I’m not going to address the article itself, simply the subheading: “What counts is how we deal with Pakistan”.   Pay close attention to the use of pronouns here; the word “we” lying right in the middle. From my simple interpretation, I assumed Mr. Klein was referring the all those involved in the war, besides Pakistan. I also think that Mr. Klein was trying to give an outline of how “we”, as the U.S., needs to “deal” with Pakistan. This article is not the first time I have been upset by the use of the collective pronoun “we”, it was just a reminder how much I really need to submit this angry outburst to Elliott.

I really don’t intend to talk politics here. When the World Trade Center was attacked several years back, there was a collective force that rose up. It was a force of people standing strong behind the late President Bush as he led the way to a “war on terror”. I think that’s when I noticed how strongly one idea can unite a group of people, especially if that idea is to protect your home turf. In the recent years I’ve paid more attention to the news and politics, but every time I turned on the television, or read anything, there was always this idea of “us v. them” being shouted out over every bit of media. It drove me crazy; and it still does. I, for one, enjoy my identity as a young independent woman. In fact, even the cover article of this particular Time made me appreciate even more being a free, if you will, individual. I do not, nor have I ever stood behind any war, ever.

What drove me really crazy was hearing people saying things like “We need to kill a lot of Taliban” (Time p.19 2010). We? We need to kill Taliban? Huh, that’s strange. Last time I checked a Taliban never committed a crime in my neighborhood, nor in any of my friends’ or relatives’ neighborhoods. Perhaps what the U.S. should say is … Whoa; I almost got carried away with what the United States should be saying. Sorry about that. What I really should be saying is how much the use of the pronouns they, their, them, our, and we, in context to wars and political controversies, makes me very upset. Of course, there are always times when these words are appropriate. For example: “We visited our grandmother yesterday”, or “They shared all of their Halloween candy with us”. Now aren’t those pleasant sentences?

Perhaps I am being a bit rude and making fun of people’s self identities, as some enjoy the idea of belonging to a whole. I do not mean to be so. I do mean to be rude to all the people who write bits about what we, as an American population, need to do about something. Such things include what we, as Americans, need to do about the immigration “problem”; or, what we, as Americans, need to do about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. First off, British Petroleum owns the Gulf mess; secondly, I really hope I have never actually heard media personnel say that the American population should take the immigration issue in to their own hands (we all know how that would go, or how it has already played out). Personally, I don’t give a rat’s ass how many people cross that stupid line that divides one desert zone from the other. I am offended and pissed off that the American media has portrayed the American population as all being against the free movement of peoples across lands. It is not okay with me that when I travel as an American I always carry around a bad rap, almost everywhere. The immigration issue is one that truly uses pronouns excessively. The way the issue is being handled makes the entire population of Mexico and surrounding Latin America seem like an enemy that, if not battered and beaten back across the border, will destroy the sanctity that is America. Do I need to remind everyone that “we” too, came here as immigrants? Oh shit. I really am ranting now. I apologize for my stupidity in forgetting that the founding fathers and the following population came in to the New World to colonize, since no one was yet using the land. My bad.

It is not just “us” and “them” that I find displeasing; it is the way human beings take national identities and turn them into things to separate people even more than our geographical locations or cultures. I do not deny diversity in culture or even diversity amongst borders, it is simply when people take the identities and use them in negative connotations. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard “the French hate Americans”. 9.5 times out of 10 the person saying this has never even been to France, let alone met an actual French person. As human beings I think it would do everyone good to remember that we are all just that, human beings. And while we have things that differentiate us from each other, they should not separate us and make us enemies.  Doesn’t anyone remember grade school? When you were required to invite all the students in the class to your birthday party so no one would feel alienated? Don’t you think using us v. them mentalities is a bit alienating? So I say this to the United States: Don’t assume that Asia, Australia, Africa, Antarctica and the surrounding Americas don’t want to come to your birthday party. The word “we” should really be used, in my opinion, to describe all human beings and, perhaps the media should stop referring to political leaders’ problems as “ours”. After all, I’ve never dropped a bomb on anyone.

1000 Things We Hate #105: Pronouns & Country is a submission from the Guest Post Contest written by Chelsea Riley.
The views expressed by the writers of the Guest Post Contest may or may not reflect the opinions of the managers of MechanisticMoth.

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2 responses

9 12 2010
Sarah

It drives me crazy how conservatives just think they have to say “he” or “him” instead of President Obama- and if they’re rude enough, well… heh heh, we KNOW who we’re talkin’ ’bout.

Identifying a person by name before using a pronoun to refer to them is standard, I thought. If it’s not done, it seems to impute blame or opprobrium on the subject.

HE hit me!
She did it FIRST!
He spends like a drunken Oprah! (this is a real comment about President Obama, who was never mentioned by name in the exchange, i did not make it up as an example) Watch FoxNews and read some conservative blogs. It is really widespread.

1 07 2011
Mackensie

When my younger sister goes to ask for something, she’ll say “we want” when she’s the only one who’s wanting whatever it is.

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