Oleander: Let’s stop playing word games with the migrant caravan / COMMENT

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A caravan filled with thousands of migrants from Central and South America has arrived at the southern border of the United States. Most are said to be asylum seekers. President Trump has ordered thousands of troops to travel to the region to secure the border and assist border patrol agents. Commentator William Jennings Bryan Oleander says many words were written and spoken on the trailer, but not all of them ring true.


Comment from Williams Jennings Bryan Oleander, also known as Tom avill, professor emeritus of English at Washburn University. Tom is the author of 10 books, most recently the novel Documents found from the life of Nell Johnson Doerr.

Tom Averill’s old website.

(Transcription)

Guys, I loved puns. Not so much.

When I was little, we used to play the “phone” board game. We were sitting in a circle and someone was whispering in his neighbor’s ear, something like, “The rat ate cheese and sneezed. The neighbor would repeat it to the next person, and so on. When the whisper came full circle, the last person would stand up and say something like, “My hat liked the big cheese, so damn it, forgive me.” We laughed and started over.

Perhaps we liked the “phone” because of our experiences with party lines. Someone on the shared line was listening, and soon Fred Peet’s lament that one of his cows had a hoof problem turned into a fit: his whole herd was on the verge of death from foot-and-mouth disease. Such was the gossip, exaggeration, misinformation, distortion, even hysteria.

It was then.

Now, in our current political climate, we don’t start with the rat and the cheese, or the hoof of the cow, to go to a wild place. We start with this savage distortion and hysteria, misinformation and lies, and we have the reverse game to play: we have to get back to the honest source, to the basic facts. We play on the phone, only backwards.

Take the trailer that poses such a threat to our borders that we must interrupt the lives of Kansas soldiers to help secure our nation from an angry mob of terrorists, rapists, criminals, Middle Easterners, all funded by the Democrats and all infected with diseases like smallpox, all determined to enter our country illegally.

Why, if someone in Here, Kansas, Co-op would stand up at the end of the “phone” and throw such rhetoric, we would laugh out loud and ask the first person who whispered to tell us the point of departure. That person might say, “A group of 5,000 people are marching towards the United States, seeking asylum.

Sadly, the “phone” game now starts with distortions and lies, and then moves rhetoric back to truth and fact. And even when the truth is revealed, many do not hear it. Instead, many of us stick to the “party line”. And by that, I don’t mean that we are listening. No, we don’t really listen at all.

When I was young, we engaged in another exercise in rhetoric. Sometimes, in the middle of an intense conversation, someone would say, “How did we get to this point in the conversation? And we would find our way back.

Friends, I would like us to play this game. Let us ask ourselves how we got to a place in our political discourse where words seem to have so little meaning, where belief is not based on facts and truth, but about prejudice and partisanship, where the truths that we take for granted are not in evidence.

Friends, I want to trust words, and I want word games to be fun again. I want to move forward, not back down.

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