There has always been conflict in the world, but maybe there is more now.
Consider the reaction of the New York Times, the august publication that is our only remaining paper of record.
Despite its legions of Page One editors, copy editors, proofreaders and support staff, the Gray Lady proceeded to fetishize conflict by using the words "rift" or "riven" in the headline or lead paragraph, actually the lead clause, in four of the stories on today's front page.
In fact, all three stories above the fold in the print edition--one about Chicago's problems of public trust, in the far right column; one about the election of the first Muslim mayor of London, closer to the center of the paper; and one about the divisions within the Republican party, in the far left column--opened with either "rift" or "riven."
I write this not because I am trying to channel the late William Safire, whose "On Language" column sometimes delved into such meta criticism.
I write this because it strikes me that in an age where we are constantly being told that the nation is polarized, perhaps language can still offer hope, despite what some might view as the existential threats of texting, tweeting and other seeming advances.
Let's begin with the top story above the fold, "Chicago Survey Finds Many See City Gone Awry."
Here is the lead on this article, with my emphasis in all-caps: "The people of Chicago are deeply RIVEN by race, class and neighborhood..."
This is an important story, worthy of its placement in the far right column above the fold. As the article points out, African-Americans in particular "appear to have lost faith" in some of Chicago's leading figures, including its mayor, Rahm Emanuel, as well as many of its public institutions.
The egregious tactics of the Chicago police, part of a pattern against minority communities that we have seen in other police departments across the country, have come much more to light since the release last year of a video showing white cops shooting Laquan McDonald, an African-American youth. The Times' article pointed out that the "divide between black and white Chicago is striking."
The Times' use of the word, "divide," was a refreshing change given that the next article above the fold, "London Elects Muslim Mayor In Tense Race," began, as the Chicago story did, with the use of "riven."
Here is the lead clause: "In a Europe struggling with a rise in Islamophobia, RIVEN by debates about the flood of Syrian migrants and on edge over religious, ethnic and cultural disputes..."
At this point, as I read the front page, I was not yet "on edge" concerning the Times' redundancy. The Gray Lady could be excused, I told myself, for the similar language, indeed the similar construction of a clause. After all, these were two articles that dealt with racial, ethnic or religious fracturing around the country or the world, one of the defining issues of our time and all time.
Perhaps, Rupert Sheldrake, the biologist, would state that this pattern called into question whether originality exists. If, as the saying goes, great minds think alike, then maybe this was a case where Sheldrake's theory of "morphic resonance," in which members of the same species communicate telepathically over the airwaves, might apply.
Of course, this was still just one word and one repetition.
What to make of the third article above the fold in the print edition, "RIFT Grows Wide As Republicans Abandon Trump," which used the word, "rift," not "riven," the adjectival form of that noun, in the headline?
Was Times' executive editor Dean Baquet or the rest of his team aware of this over-usage? Could the paper be indulged since "rift" is, after all, a different word from "riven"? Was the New York Times' editorial staff suffering from its own water crisis, in which the beverage at the paper's headquarters was "riven" not with lead, but with some mind-numbing steroid or other solution?
I figured that was it, that the plague of "rifts" would end. Passover and its plagues had long since passed.
And the Times did indeed change the headline for its online version, "Donald Trump Seeks Republican Unity But Finds Rejection."
I was somewhat relieved. The Times must be on to its affliction, its "rift" and "riven" disorder.
And then I spotted, below the fold in the print edition, an article about a controversy, once again involving race, as well as sex, at the United State Military Academy. The article focused on a group portrait of 16 black women, all set to graduate from West Point, who in their photo clenched their fists in what has been deemed by some as a violation of Army code.
The headline, "One Photo, 16 Clenched Fists and a Glimpse of a RIVEN West Point," looked innocuous by itself, but, given its predecessors above the fold, it convinced me that the Times had indeed over-dosed on this word.
Still, it seemed that the Times did recognize its problem with redundancy, one that was becoming almost "pathological," a word that Ted Cruz, who had suspended his campaign for the Republican nomination, recently used to describe Donald Trump and his lying ways.
In the online version, the Times, as was the case with its article on the Republican Party, used a different headline, "Raised-Fist Photo by Black Women at West Point Spurs Inquiry."
So, perhaps the Times had diagnosed its illness, a prospect made all the more likely by the absence of the offending words in its fifth and final story on the front page of the print edition.
That story, "Reckoning With a Nuclear Peril," about Kim Jong-un's reckless nuclear program in North Korea, did not include a "rift" or "riven" in its headline or opening paragraph.
Of course, I was not entirely comforted. It was obvious that no paper, including the Times, would need to use either word in this story when practically the entire planet is united in opposing the North Korean regime.
Just when I was about to forget this matter and chalk it up to the use of steroids, I saw on CNN that Donald Trump, who once proclaimed that he has "the best words," had reportedly dubbed Elizabeth Warren a "goofus," his latest addition to the lexicon.
That the Gray Lady had done no more than use repetition in exposing the fault lines within Chicago, London, West Point and the Republican Party told me that there was still hope for our language, for our country and for the world.
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Source: Elder Care Huffington Post