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. parrillaturi on January 8, 2016 at 5:08 pm

    So sad, but “He” does exist

  2. eclecticessayist on January 13, 2016 at 9:22 am

    Overall, I agree with you. However, by the Pursuit of Happiness the Founders did not mean the accumulation of property. Nor did they mean the freedom to seek pleasure. The Pursuit of Happiness had a higher moral dimension. But the confusion goes to your point. We have lost the shared understanding of even our most basic documents.

    • quinersdiner on January 13, 2016 at 9:37 pm

      Thanks for sharing your viewpoint.