Like many friends and more Americans, I’ve watched, read and listened to with varying levels of interest to the reactions, analyses, pontifications and other responses to the Supreme Court decisions last week on marriage and the Affordable Care Act. My opinions track much, if not most, everything that’s been offered from the conservative side in terms of opposition to these decisions.
But there’s a singular aspect to the decisions that I have seen precious little attention given: the utter perversion of language.
I read Nineteen Eighty-Four when I was 12 or 13 years old. Probably more than any other book or other influence (than The Bible), it has determined my political outlook. Once the plain meaning of language has been corrupted, society indeed becomes one dictated by men rather than laws.
Last week, in two separate instances in certainly the two most consequential cases before it since Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court perverted the plain meaning of English in order to impose a preferred policy outcome upon America. Orwellian has become an obnoxiously overused adjective among—what’s the best description here?—“anti-statists,” I suppose you’d say. But last Thursday and Friday, Orwell’s bleak conception of the perversion of language in service to the state found with me its most eerie resonance. (With the additional irony that the very word “(S)tate” was the central question in the ACA decision.)
As a boy, the horror of Nineteen Eighty-Four to me was the capriciousness that emanated from a pernicious state that, no matter what you might truly think, could punish you for those thoughts, no matter what they were, at any turn. When the highest court in the land has abandoned objectivity and plain meaning in its own use of the language which is its stock and trade in arbiting the laws by which we are judged, its ability, or even desire, to do so in its appointed duty in our constitutional system is irreparably compromised. And eventually, so is the liberty it and the rest of that constitution were established to serve.
Tommy Sears is Managing Director of Legacy National Security Advisory Group, Former Senior Fellow at the Center for Security Policy, Executive Director for the Center for Military Readiness, and Member and coordinator of the Benghazi Accountability Coalition and a regular contributor to many media outlets.