What If Everyone Talked Like Our Politicians?

From a Wall Street Journal column by Joe Queenan headlined “What If Everyone Talked Like Our Politicians?”:

Politicians are incapable of speaking about their opponents in sane, non-apocalyptic terms. “If elected,” we hear them declare, “my rival would defund the U.S. Navy, turn Marxists loose in our kindergartens, cause both Antarctica and the Amazon rainforest to disappear by noon tomorrow and turn the whole country over to tech billionaires who want to implant tracking chips in our brains.”

Imagine if everybody else spoke this way. Here’s how the CEO of a company renowned for its delicious cookies would react to the news that a competitor had just introduced a new tangerine flavor with a third layer of filling.

“In mute testimony to the fact that our opponents will stop at nothing in their efforts to destroy life as we know it, Fudge Time has just unveiled a mouthwatering cookie with 145 calories in every serving,” he would say. “This insidious attempt to subvert the youth of America by making them addicted to tangerine-flavored cookies is part and parcel of a secret government program with deep tentacles in the Middle East to make our children fat and lazy and contemptuous of authority. Not since Pearl Harbor has the American consumer faced such a remorseless, conscienceless, implacable enemy.”

Such hysterical hyperbole would also dominate conversations in the world of finance. Here is the president of a prominent family of pension funds discussing a rival’s introduction of an exciting new product:

“Just as Cato the Elder ceaselessly warned his fellow Roman senators that Carthage must be destroyed if Rome was to survive, I am warning you that the ruthless marketing of an annuity that guarantees a $4,500 monthly payout over a 20-year period with no penalty if the annuity holder suddenly dies the day after purchasing it will bring the Republic to its knees. I warn you that such villainy cannot be countenanced, much less endured. Not if mankind is to survive.”

Menaced restaurateurs might take a similar tack:

“To add polenta made of vegan tofu to its menu—in the middle of a devastating economic turndown!!!—shows how little respect my competitor has for the culinary traditions of a country I love truly, madly, deeply. I tell you, my friends, that vegan tofu will sound the death knell of the Mansion on the Hill and the Little House on the Prairie, extinguishing forever the flickering lights of American democracy. I am reminded of a story about George Washington…”

Over-the-top imagery might also enter the world of sports, when an NFL coach furiously reacts to losing a game when the opposing team unexpectedly used the flea flicker on fourth-and-goal from the one-foot-line with time running out:

“In the America I grew up in, you run the ball on fourth-and-goal from the one. In the America that swells in my breast with every fiber of my being, you tell the offensive line to blow those guys off the line of scrimmage and you ram the ball across the goal line. By resorting to the flea flicker, my opponent has shown himself to be a treasonous serpent, a corruptor of youth, the spiritual heir to Judas Iscariot, Iago and Benedict Arnold. Make no mistake: Anyone who scores the winning touchdown on a flea flicker from the one-foot line is an enemy of the American people.”

Finally, disapproving parents might get into the act:

“With depraved disregard for the noblest traditions of this iconic country, Morgan, you not only ate the last piece of your little brother’s birthday cake but then lied about it. Your behavior is vile, despicable, a kick in this country’s pluralistic teeth. So no, you are not getting your allowance this week.”

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