The great military philosopher Sun Tzu warned his students not to let their enemies pick the time and location of battles. Sun Tzu wrote, “The clever combatant imposes his will on the enemy, but does not allow the enemy’s will to be imposed on him.”
When you fight on your enemies’ terms, it rarely works out well.
You’d think this would be self-evident, but time and again, conservatives let liberals define the fights. It is no wonder the war for our culture and republic is in shambles!
Words matter; they shape how we are willing to approach the world.
When it comes to the words we use in public conversations, conservatives too often allow themselves to be backed into a rhetorical corner.
Conservative politicians will say they adopt the language of the left as a reasonable concession to civic dialogue. In fact, they do it often because they are insecure or lazy… Or maybe they are revealing their true beliefs.
On issue after issue, time after time, conservatives cede the selection of the rhetorical battleground to the left.
Take the barbaric practice of surgically and chemically mutilating the sex organs of children to achieve the appearance of the opposite gender. The left wants to call this “gender modification,” leaning into a worldview that devalues human life to little more than a knock-off Lego set.
Even self-proclaimed conservative politicians will slip into calling it “Gender Mod” thinking it makes them sound cool. In fact, it reveals them to be less than serious.
Nothing is being modified on those children, but rather mutilated. Only by calling the practice of Gender Mutilation what it is can we hope to see it stopped.
The same goes for the crisis at the southern border.
People who enter a country without permission have long been known legally as illegal aliens. They are criminals by virtue of having broken our laws and crossed our borders without permission. Yet the term “illegal aliens” became “illegal immigrants,” and now that’s morphed into “undocumented migrants.” This was a purposeful transition of language by those who would erase our national sovereignty.
How we describe the problems around us dictates how we will solve them. The problem of “undocumented migrants” is addressed in a vastly different manner than “illegal aliens” or even “invaders.” One is a paperwork problem created by a bureaucracy, the other is an existential threat to our national survival.
If conservatives want to be competitive in the war for culture and government, they must stop letting leftists define the terms of the fight. Conservatives must discipline themselves and not allow the manipulated language of the left to cross their tongues.
Conservatives must impose on the national conversation honest language to describe the issues of the day if we are to save the republic. Like our Founding Fathers, we must have the discipline to harness language in the fight for liberty.
(Michael Quinn Sullivan is the publisher of Texas Scorecard. He and his wife have three adult children, a son-in-law, and a dog. He is the author of three books.)