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Dead Language vs. Language of Death

June 16, 2002|DENNY FREIDENRICH | Denny Freidenrich has lived in Orange County since 1970. He writes from Laguna Beach. He can be reached at

Of the hundreds of articles I have read since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, none has haunted me as much as a recent piece by Michael Kelly in the Washington Post.

Kelly blames Republicans Trent Lott, the Senate majority leader; and Dick Armey, House majority leader; along with Democrats Tom Daschle, Senate minority leader; and Richard A. Gephardt, House minority leader, not only for speaking in cliches about Sept. 11 and its aftermath, but for speaking from another time. In a nutshell, he says they are speaking "a dead language." I agree. That said, what does this say about the media, career politicians and the political process itself? Are they dead too?

Before you paint me as some out-of-his-mind, fringe politico, let me assure you I am not. I was Bill Honig's Orange County fund-raiser in 1982 and 1986, when he was elected (and reelected) state superintendent of public instruction. During that time, I worked for Irvine's Larry Agran, who's now mayor, as well as the Board of Supervisors and four beach cities in their fight against offshore oil drilling along the county's coastline. Today, the company I co-founded represents the nearly 300 families living in El Morro Village so they don't have to suffer the same fate as those who once lived in Crystal Cove.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday June 23, 2002 Orange County Edition California Part B Page 17 Editorial Pages Desk 1 inches; 38 words Type of Material: Correction
Due to an editing error, the titles of Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) were given incorrectly in Denny Freidenrich's Orange County Commentary article on June 16.

I think it is time to rethink the national Demopublican-Republocratic agenda. The way I see it, virtually no one in Washington speaks for me any longer. To go one step further, I'm not sure anyone there really speaks for my generation either.

Ah, my generation. We are the baby boomers. We were supposed to be about peace and love. We were supposed to make the world a better place. It would seem, even to the most casual observer, we have done a pretty lousy job.

Instead of peace, we are at war. Instead of love, there is hatred everywhere. In a sense, boomers didn't create the most difficult issues confronting us today (like the battles in the Middle East and South Asia, the bombings in Northern Ireland and the instability in Latin America); still, we can't ignore them, can we?

One way to deal with these problems is by conventional means. This is why Russian President Vladimir V. Putin and U.S. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell have taken their shows on the road. They are hoping their words of wisdom sink in. They have in the past, so everyone, including me, hopes they will now.

Herein lies the dilemma--and the essence of speaking "a dead language" on the world stage. If the old words hardly resonate with my generation at home, then it is time to admit that some people can't hear them at all. If Sept. 11 proved one thing, it is this: Terrorists speak another language altogether. Their message is about death and weapons of mass genocide, but their language is far from dead.

This is what truly haunts me about what Kelly said in his column and what I hear (or don't hear) our political leaders saying today. On the one hand, I see their lips moving. On the other hand, I hardly can understand a word they are saying.

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