“We’ve lost a common vocabulary”

By Tom Quiner

We’ve lost the ability to communicate.

The United States of America is no longer united by a single language. I’m not talking about English. I’m talking about the moral language.

Until fairly recently in our nation’s history, liberals and conservatives have been able to understand each other. They spoke the same language. They shared the same values, for the most part.

Liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, and even  American Catholics and Protestants were bound together by a national creed that acknowledged immutable God-given rights of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Something has changed.

The political Left has drawn away from traditional American values to the point that they reject every single component of the creed.

A right to life? No, women have a right to publicly funded abortion.

A right to liberty? No, we have a right to equality, which involves redistribution of wealth at the expense of someone else’s liberty.

Pursuit of Happiness? The Left rejects our Founding Father’s notion of what this means, namely, the right to accumulate property. The Left has replaced it with the freedom to pursue the lifestyle of your choice.

And God has nothing to do with any of it, if she even exists. And for god’s sake, keep her name out of the schools and the public square.

They have pulled the Democratic Party along with it to the point that a Democrat from, say, the 1950s, even the 60s, wouldn’t recognize today’s party.

Fr. Robert Barron, a regular commentator on social and religious issues, discusses the problem in a video ¬†commentary (“Gay marriage and the breakdown of moral argument”). He expresses the issue this way:

“We’ve lost the capacity to even have a coherent moral conversation. We’ve lost a common vocabulary.”

As English writer G.K. Chesterton has pointed out, it is essential to have some common ground in order to have a good conversation, a good debate.

There has to be a starting point upon which we can build. Without it, we are simply reduced to shouting at each other.

I’m concerned that we’ve reached the shouting point.

Relativism competes with Truth in the marketplace of ideas and politics and life. If nothing is really and truly, well, True, to the relativist, he is no longer able to talk the same language with his neighbor who does believe in an absolute immutable Truth, as virtually all Americans once did.

Where is the common ground?

We’ve lost the common vocabulary.


  1. Robert Robinson on May 8, 2013 at 5:16 pm

    Perhaps better said: “we’ve lost that loving feeling” which is also communication and universal.

    • quinersdiner on May 8, 2013 at 6:01 pm

      There could be a song in there somewhere.

  2. bobic7 on May 9, 2013 at 8:15 am

    It seems to me that we’re losing the war of ideas to liberals. More and more people find the idea of an all caring big government attractive. They are willing to exchange freedom and personal responsibility for security and moral relativism. Democrats have figured out that it’s easy to buy votes with the promise of more benefits.

    This will be a very tough battle to win.

    Iowa City

    • quinersdiner on May 9, 2013 at 8:33 am

      The peril is real, Bob. I’m hoping for a serious backlash when Obamacare crashes and burns.

    • Shawn Pavlik on May 9, 2013 at 1:57 pm

      Reminds me of the Tytler quote:

      “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations has been 200 years.

      Great nations rise and fall. The people go from bondage to spiritual truth, to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependence, from dependence back again to bondage.”

      I fear we are in the dependence stage, and on our way to bondage. I only hope we can rebound once again with a healthy dose of spiritual truth. I am encouraged by the move by our youth to a more pro-life stance. I hope this means maybe we can skip the bondage stage altogether…..

      • quinersdiner on May 9, 2013 at 2:25 pm

        What a relevant quote to the times. Thanks for sharing it.

  3. […] I don’t think Mr. Smith and I are talking the same language. It’s a problem I pointed out in yesterday’s post on this humble blog (“We’ve lost a common vocabulary”). […]