ADAMCZYK: In this world, you have to define your terms

Ed Adamczyk

EDITOR'S NOTE: This column was corrected in regards to the Seminole Tribe of Florida and Florida State University.


By the time you read this the earth will have spun once and the world as we know it will have executed so many permutations that whatever occurred over the weekend will be regarded as history. Nothing I can tell you will likely change your mind about current events – the horrified will remain that way, the energized will remain that way – and some of us will follow a T-shirts dictum from a generation ago: “I used to be disgusted, now I’m just amused.”

I work in words, and no longer know what some words mean. That is to be expected – vocabulary changes connotation and denotation over time – but I agree, surprisingly, with Rep. Cory Roy, R-Texas.

“We are divided even about ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,’” he said recently on the House floor, noting that those words once united the country but now “tear us apart because we disagree about what they even mean.”

Rep. Roy, incidentally, was formerly chief of staff to Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, but chose not to include himself in the group of Republicans who rejected the recent certification of President-elect Joe Biden.

That’s gotta be one conflicted member of Congress. That certification occurred early Thursday morning last week. Seems like a month ago.

While words are slowly stripped of meaning, the symbolism endures. If a mob is carrying an unusual number of American flags, you can bet that they swing from the right, and I must give credit to America’s right wing for co-opting basic imagery to allegorically present its case. Liberals don’t chant “U.S.A.” Liberals do not wrap themselves in the flag, unless it’s got rainbows on it. Liberals do not announce their horde is comprised of “patriots.”

It occurred to me once that the fastest way to debase the emotional power and impact of the Confederate flag would be its display in videos by rap artists. Have those hip Black guys surround themselves with Confederate imagery, rhyme something about “It’s our flag too,” and that would be the end of it.

I do not refer to myself as a “patriot” except on the day I file my federal tax forms, and I am glad I am not in the habit of calling myself that. The meaning of that word escapes me, especially these days.

A long-overdue facet of American life, by which I mean sports, is the purge of certain mascottery from certain identities. The know-known-as Washington Football Team is an example. The Cleveland Indians baseball team junked its mascot, a smiling, vaudeville-style Indian named Chief Wahoo, several years ago, and will use their name, in place since 1915, for only one more season, if there is one. Lancaster High School and Miami University, better known as Miami of Ohio, are now “Legends” and “Red Hawks,” respectively, and no longer Redskins.

The liberals who seek an across-the-board junking of Native American names and representation in sports should be aware that Florida State University – “the Seminoles” – maintains a mutually beneficial relationship with the Indian tribe by that name, aided by the award of scholarships to members of the tribe and recognition by the school that referring itself as Seminoles comes from “admiration of the only Native American tribe never conquered by the U.S. Government.”

Hey, something on which the left and the right might agree.

Okay, so the Washington football team and the Cleveland baseball team have moved into the 21st century, and we await the actions of the Atlanta Braves, the Kansas City Chiefs and the Chicago Black Hawks, the latter named after the 333rd Machine Gun Battalion of the 86th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army in World War I, which itself was named after Black Hawk, leader of the Sauk nation in Illinois, so that name change could get sticky.

What’s to become of football’s New England Patriots? Baptized, so they say, for the musket-firing colonialists who fought the British in the Revolutionary War, the team now carries a name with some unexpected emotional freight. While their long-term future is probably not as high in importance to them as their recent dismal season – seven wins, nine losses and numerous COVID-19 cases -- it remains to be questioned if “patriot” becomes less of a principle and more of a self-administered term of self-admiration.

Whether or not a decision on that matter needs to occur in my lifetime, I have disliked that team since 1960 and do not intend to stop.

Contact Ed Adamczyk at

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