Monday, July 03, 2017

Talismanic Incantations

One of the concepts with which most of us are acquainted in the age of Game of Thrones and Harry Potter is that of the magic spell, a set of words imbued with mystical powers. A good example from the Harry Potter realm is the "Stunning Spell," which renders its target temporarily unconscious ... it is cast by pointing a wand at the victim and shouting stupefy!*.

Other magical incantations are familiar to all of us from books, movies, and cartoons ... terms like abracadabra**, hocus pocus***, and shazam.

I thought about magic spells and incantations the other day when I read the text of the 9th Circuit Court's decision in the case "State of Hawaii v. Donald Trump, John Kelly, and Rex Tillerson," which struck down the Trump administration's proposed ban on travel to the US from six majority Muslim nations. The decision contained this memorable line:

National Security is not a "talismanic incantation" that, once invoked, can support any and all exercise of executive power under §1182(f).

Upon reading that line, it occurred to me that much of our political and social discourse today consists of shouting talismanic incantations at each other as if their deployment will magically cause our opponents to come to their senses and recognize the unarguable superiority of our viewpoint. Here's a partial list of the magic spells and incantations most frequently invoked in America today:

National Security! Contrary to the 9th Circuit Court's opinion, this is a very powerful incantation often used to justify actions that would otherwise be considered unwise, illegal, or downright un-American.

Freedom! This is the quintessential American magic word, and is similar in meaning to the longer incantation Don't Tread on Me!. Note: it must not be used in conjunction with other, lesser used and nearly archaic magical expressions which might dilute its power, such as Responsibility and Empathy.

Choice! This is a shorter, quicker-to-employ version of the traditional American incantation Don't Tell Me What to Do!. Note: it applies only to the choice option desired by the person delivering the incantation; its use does not imply that others should enjoy the same equality of choice.

Fake News! This incantation is used to cast doubt on spells the wizard does not like.

Religious Freedom! Note: this incantation may be used in the United States only by American Christian wizards; its use is forbidden to adherents of all other religions. Conversely, when used in places like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, it implies only the freedom to practice Islam.

Keep and Bear Arms! Note: this incantation works only when accompanied by the frenzied waving of a firearm; a traditional magic wand is not effective.

Job-Killing! This incantation is used to counter economic spells the magician does not support and cannot fight in any other way (i.e., with statistics or logic).

Government Overreach! Similar in general intent to Job-Killing!, this incantation is used to counter other spells which invoke government powers the magician does not like because they are not to his advantage. It is often invoked in combination with Freedom! and Choice! to increase its perceived power.

Obstructionist! This spell is used to damage the image of an opponent by characterizing him as a wizard unable to cast spells of his own, able only to interfere with spells cast by others.

Racist! and Sexist! These are often employed when no other spell works. They have no particular value other than to deflect attention away from spells other wizards may try to cast.

Those are just a few of the modern American talismanic incantations I can think of ... which other ones do you recognize? Leave a comment.

Have a good day. And as my mother would have reminded us, please, thank you, and excuse me are very good magic words at any time.

More thoughts tomorrow.


* I was under the mistaken impression that this was a spell that made the victim stupid, and had been maliciously directed at Congress. My bad.

** It appears in the Harry Potter stories as one of the three "unforgivable curses" - "avada kedavra," the "killing curse."

*** "Hocus Pocus" is linguistically interesting, being apparently derived from the Latin words "hoc est corpus" ("this is the body (of Christ)" in a parody of the rite of transubstantiation in the Christian mass).

† This is the applicable text of that paragraph of the law: "(f) Suspension of entry or imposition of restrictions by President. Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate."


John A Hill said...

If only there was an incantation that would make politicians actually work...

Grand Crapaud said...

Those shibboleths can be profitably thought about as incantations. Every one of them.

eViL pOp TaRt said...

Unamerican! is in itself an incantation used to banish unpopular ideas, like wishing we were stuck back in 1776 or something.

Atheistic communism is another.

Mike said...

"All lives matter" - My groups lives matter, your groups doesn't.

allenwoodhaven said...

"For your convenience" is an incantation used when something is made easier for them and harder for us.

Kristen Drittsekkdatter said...

"For your convenience" almost never is!

Elvis Wearing a Bra on His Head said...

Obstructionist means for some people simply having reservations about new ways to go.