Lock step and barrel….

I heard a woman’s voice on TV saying these words yesterday (9/13/10.)

Today, I found the footage on the internet.  She is Christine O’Donnell, and is a candidate of the Tea Party running for the senate in Delaware.  The US Senate.

The clip doesn’t link directly, but you can find it at ABC News.

Before I knew who she was, I wrote this on Facebook:

what? what did that woman just say on TV? I don’t know who she is or what the context was, but she said she wasn’t going to just do what was expected of her and jump in all “lock step and barrel.”I know why education is in trouble — we hand microphones to people too stupid to know their own language.

While I’m happy to hear she is Pro-abortion rights, and Pro-gun control, I maintain my position.  I live in a country that actually had at one time a political party called the Know Nothing Party.  If we go that route again, then we deserve what we get.  While this woman has an education (in marketing – one of the great capitalist inventions) she fumbled her phrases like a drunken quarterback in front of the big microphone.  And as anybody in marketing knows — perception is everything.

Let’s be clear.  LOCK STEP is what soldiers and marching bands do.  Close formation, identical steps.  A good metaphor for those who “fall in” and obey norms and become part of a machine.  The most negative connotation has to do with Nazi troops goose-stepping their way to oblivion — an allusion that both Republicans and Tea Party guests would like to call up at every opportunity.  However, it works well not only for the military and marching bands, but also for medical professionals, law enforcement, fire departments, and any field where consistency, agreement, teamwork and cooperation are important.  Goose Step is the unmistakable negative reference to the Nazis — lock step is the softer allusion.

LOCK, STOCK, and BARREL is a gun metaphor — not unlike THE FULL MONTY.  ALL IN.  HEAD FIRST.  It is a full commitment and requires that every aspect of your resources are fully engaged.  Not holding back because of doubts, embarrassment, pride, or any other reason.  You put everything into every action when you go in lock, stock, and barrel.

To blend these 2 perfectly good metaphors into one mistake is called a MIXED METAPHOR.  Like, “killing two birds with one in the bush.”  And yes, that is an intentional reference to W.

“Why is this a big deal?” you ask.  It’s a big deal because it indicates that this speaker — with a national microphone — didn’t think before she spoke — or if she did, her motivations are more nefarious than should be tolerated.

Either she didn’t think at that moment, and so “slipped;” or, she intentionally tried to make both points without enough grammar to pull it off; or, she didn’t think as a matter of habit and so had not thought through the meaning of either “lock step” or “lock, stock, and barrel.”  They are not the same.  They don’t belong together unless linked by grammar and context.  They are both part of defined American English — and she either didn’t know the correct phrases, or didn’t think ahead and use them correctly.

“Maybe that’s what she meant…” you say.  And that is the most troubling of all the possibilities.  If it was not a case of jittery-mouth stumbling, or mouth-running-without-brain-fully-engaged, and was instead an intentional blend (which is possible, considering her marketing background) — then you have to assume malice.  If she was intentionally trying to forge the idea that those who respect and participate in the expected norms of society (lock step) and those who dive in with full commitment (lock, stock and barrel) are the same — two sides of an undesireable thing to be avoided at all costs  then there is a problem.  Her implication is that she will never fall so low as lock step and barrel.

Once again let me say I do understand the impulse to fight against the bad politicians of the past and the present.  That’s not my problem with this message.  But to intentionally try to fuse the negative associations of military lock step and the positive associations of lock, stock, and barrel (all in, the full monty, jumping in head first – or feet first) into one negative characteristic is an attempted manipulation of perception that I am not willing to accept.  Not all lock step equates with goose-step; and not every all-in is a leisure activity or a fool’s leap.  That’s the pleasure and the tripwire of metaphors — they are complex and carry the baggage of centuries.

This kind of error is a lot like intentionally mispronouncing a word (like nuclear) out of stubbornness or ignorance.  Regardless of which cause is true, it isn’t cute, it isn’t intelligent, and it belies either an inability or a contempt.

Because we glorify, elect and reward ignorance, we continue to slip in the global marketplace and global authority.  What incentive is there to become the best and the brightest, when the second-rate, the narcissistic, and the proudly ignorant continue to occupy the microphones and cameras of the media?

Scholars, creative minds, explorers, inventors, and brilliant innovators should be what we aspire to and what we emulate.  Instead, the media feeds us a diet of racist Florida sheep-dogs and politicians unable to think 5 words ahead of their mouth.

Even in schools, we place a higher value on being pretty, running fast, personal charisma, and wealthy parents; instead of high academic achievement and innovative thinking.  Nerds, dweebs, bookworms, freaks — we’ve got a lexicon full of insults for the kids who don’t fit the popular, jock, or rich-kid mold.  In every aspect of our society, we boost those who are part of the social norm, and exclude those who are exceptional in ways that don’t fit the mold.

I don’t want to be led by the ignorant, the ordinary, the emotional, or a guy with whom I’d feel comfortable having a beer (if I liked beer.)  I want to be led by the exceptional, the thoughtful, the brilliant, the creative, the innovative, and the courageous.

My friend Carrie asked what patriotism is.  I think it’s the courage to take the difficult high road to make the country better, rather than the easy, foolish, selfish, racist, sexist, greedy, self-serving, intentionally unread, intentionally ignorant, delusional, proud-to-be-common low road.  I don’t want an Ordinary-Joe in the White House, the Senate, the Supreme Court, or even the House of Representatives.  I don’t want to be led by someone who is financially successful at any cost.  I don’t want to be led by someone who prays on street corners, on his/her way to a board meeting that will cheat millions out of ten or fifteen cents a day and call it capitalism.  I don’t want to be led by people who make it their primary goal to turn a profit at any cost.

Don’t get me wrong — there are noble, honorable, honest, hard-working, loving, generous, loyal, clever, creative and good people of all kinds and in all walks of life.  But those who lead millions have to be exceptional.  If they are not — then their leadership simply won’t hold up to the negative pressures and overwhelming prevalence of what is easy.  How simple it must be to slip from painful honor to easy dishonor when thousands of people and millions of dollars bear down upon you, telling you, “It will be okay just this once.”