#19. New American English Words (Part 2)
Jayna Tokie Tanaka
Politics and Economics
This section is not as light-hearted as the first, mostly because politics and economics are not light-hearted subjects. Politics and economics affect every part of our lives although we would really like to ignore their depressing messages. One reason the news from the United States is so depressing is that the country seems to be divided in so many ways: Republicans vs. Democrats, Trump supporters vs. Trump haters, the haves vs. the have nots, the big multinationals vs. consumers, the climate-change believers vs. the climate change deniers, and the people who love guns and those who want to ban them. New American words and phrases come from these groups, especially from election politics, the big industries, and the gun lobby.
The U.S. has split into two incompatible political groups. The last presidential election was won by Donald Trump because of this divide. As the election results came in, each of the 50 states was shown colored either red or blue. Red meant that the Republican Donald Trump had won that state, and blue meant that the Democrat Hillary Clinton had won that state. There was a clear pattern: the red states were mostly in the middle of the country, and the blue states were mostly on both coasts. The largest cities in the U.S. are on the West Coast and the northern part of the East Coast, and people who live in large cities tend to be more educated and more liberal. The central and southern states are more sparsely populated. The people who live in these states tend to be less well-educated and more conservative. Donald Trump sharpened these distinctions when he appealed to people who were uneasy about different colored people, different religious groups, and new immigrants. His campaign speeches said it was okay to have discriminatory feelings about these people. Trump’s election campaign used tactics proposed by Stephen Bannon, a man who made the word alt-right (alternative right) part of the English language. The alt-right thinkers openly advocate white supremacy and white nationalism. White supremacy is the idea that there is a white race that is better than other people in all aspects, especially intelligence, leadership, and morality. In the U.S. white supremacy has come to mean that white people should maintain a population majority in each state, something which has already been lost in New Mexico, Texas, Nevada, and Hawaii. Alt-right ideas are responsible for President Trump’s “border wall,” his immigration policies, his inability to condemn racist violence, and his calling nations like Haiti, El Salvador, and parts of Africa “shithole countries.” These days, Trump people and non-Trump people can barely talk to each other. The 2018 mid-term election to elect U.S. representatives and senators may show how deep the divide is.
The U.S. is now also divided into people who are suspicious of any industry called “big” and everyone else. “Big” has been added to the oil, pharmaceutical, and agricultural industries. The term “big oil” means the largest multinational public corporations dealing in oil products, including BP, Chevron, and ExxonMobile. These companies long denied that burning oil causes climate change. Moreover, some big oil companies are involved in fracking (hydraulic fracturing), a process to get oil out of the ground in the U.S. and Canada. This process has been blamed for polluting groundwater in the areas it is used. Another “big” is “big pharma,” the largest pharmaceutical (drug) companies in the world, including such familiar names as Merck, Pfizer, and Bayer. They are accused of activities such as paying doctors to prescribe their drugs, making too much profit, and causing the opioid epidemic in the U.S. Of these problems, the opioid epidemic has recently been in the news. Opioids are prescription painkillers that act like morphine and heroin and have the same addictive properties. Because opioids have the euphoric effect of morphine and heroin, people who no longer have prescriptions may go online to buy them illegally. The U.S. now has the greatest number of opioid addicts in the world. Finally, there is “big agri,” a term meaning corporations that run huge farms growing wheat, soy beans, and corn. One thing this industry has been accused of is causing the obesity epidemic in the U.S. What is the culprit? The bad guy is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). As the name suggests, this food sweetener is made from corn, and like sugar it is half sucrose and half fructose. However, because it is so cost-effective, it has almost completely replaced sugar as a sweetener in such soft drinks like Coca Cola, Pepsi, Gatorade, and iced tea. HFCS also keeps costs down in many processed foods like cookies, snack foods, breads, canned fruit, salad dressing, cereals, jams, and ice cream, making them cheaper than more nutritious fruits, vegetables, and meats. Experts say that the human body simply does not need the large amount of sucrose and fructose that Americans consume. Moreover, obesity makes it more likely that people will develop diabetes and high blood pressure.
One other division in American society is between gun owners and gun controllers. The first group says the 2nd Amendment of the U.S. Constitution gives them the right to own guns as private individuals, and the other says that ordinary citizens have no business owning guns that can be used only to kill people. Because of this debate, the new term everyone knows is assault weapon, a semiautomatic gun that fires one bullet every time the trigger is pulled. It uses easily reloadable magazines filled with bullets and is suitable for combat situations. This type of weapon was banned for ten years from 1994 to 2004, but it can now be bought by anyone 18 years or older. The most popular assault weapon in the U.S. now is called AR-15, and it was used by the killer of 17 in a Florida high school in February of this year. Several AR-15s were also found in the room of the killer in the September 2017 shooting in Las Vegas, in which 58 were killed. Another item the Las Vegas killer used was a bump stock, a device which allows an assault weapon to fire more rapidly, making it like the machine guns we have seen in war movies. The gun controllers hope to pass laws outlawing assault weapons and bump stocks, so the fierce debate between these two groups will not end any time soon.
(To be continued)
Jayna Tokie Tanaka（ジェイナ・トキエ・タナカ）