Perhaps we all spoke too fast. Certainly not. The man who ran his mouth for several weeks demanding proof when there seemed to have been many available everywhere that a half-black man was born in the US finally got a certain “respite” when the document was released. After all, he played a role in it. And then, a few days later, he got some good bashing from the man he had spent the previous weeks maligning. Like a few other commentators (including Baratunde who made a personal video on youtube decrying the humiliation the “white privileged businessman” brought on the “first black president” by being forced to comply), I also thought it was racist. His further demanding the president’s college transcripts rather than asking more sensible questions about the economy or the direction of the country made it even worse. The whole “birther” escapade reeked of something more than just partisan politics.
A few days ago, former President Bush declined an invitation to go with President Obama to the site of the World Trade Centres where terrorists had knocked down two prominent buildings killing thousands of people. He was, according to reports, keeping up with his desire to stay out of the spotlight. He had lived up to this promise many times by refusing to comment on current topical/political issues in order to keep the focus on the president rather than on himself – obviously aware of the star power of his ex-presidency. Some other reports however saw it as a snub. The current president had refused to give enough credit to the former one for investigation procedures that led to this victory, and thus, he could as well go it all alone.
Last week,, I turned in a final semester paper in my Discourse Analysis class titled “Polysemy in All-Male and All-Female Speech” using evidence from elicited conversations to make judgements about how humans use ambiguous statements and expressions to achieve desired goals, and particularly how innocent and sometimes unintended speech acts are sometimes construed to very specific purposes by hearers and listeners. I guess it is only fitting that all of this news events are happening at this moment when the paper is sufficiently turned in. Yet it left an excess of active brain cells making perhaps needless connections to current affairs in the name of discourse analysis. Sometimes, a speech – or an act – is just what it is, without any underlying intentions.
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