Words, Words, Words
In the process of discussing his solid political standing among Indo-Americans, Senator Joe Biden started a controversy with the comment:
In Delaware, the largest growth in population is Indian-Americans moving from India. You cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. I’m not joking.
Biden’s words raised the ire of some; however, they provide no indication that his political views are a threat to the Indian community. The irony is that the senator perpetuated this stereotype while describing his positive relationship with the Indo-American community.
During his presidency, Bill Clinton worked toward peace and stability in Northern Ireland. In fact, some credit his efforts as paving the way to the Good Friday Agreement. In a remark on these efforts, Clinton made the following statement:
I’ve spent an enormous amount of time trying to help the people in the land of my forebears in Northern Ireland get over 600 years of religious fights. And every time they make an agreement to do it, they’re like a couple of drunks walking out of the bar for the last time–when they get to the swinging door, they turn right around and go back in again and say, ‘I just can’t quite get there.’ It’s hard to give up these things.
Clinton’s words did not suit his actions. He described his involvement in the peace process but chose an analogy that was not PC.
Trent Lott made comments that people found offensive, too. During Strom Thurmond’s birthday party, Senator Lott delivered a speech that included the following passage:
I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We’re proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn’t have had all these problems over all these years, either.
Unlike Clinton or Biden, Lott did not mention any racial or ethnic stereotype. Why was it offensive? The focus of Thurmond’s campaign was to preserve Jim Crow laws and segregation. Lott’s comments recalled these policies, and as the majority leader of the Senate, Lott’s words sounded particularly foreboding. As a result, Lott lost his leadership post in the Senate.
Are words enough to condemn someone? Are they enough to bless someone? In Hamlet, Claudius concludes a prayer with the couplet, “My words fly up, my thoughts remain below: / Words without thoughts never to heaven go.”