All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others. – George Orwell, Animal Farm
Anyone who has read George Orwell appreciates his sense of irony, especially with language.
In 1984, Orwell describes a dystopian England which has become a brutal dictatorship. The main character, Winston Smith, works in the Ministry of Truth.
“The Ministry of Truth contained, it was said, three thousand rooms above ground, and corresponding ramifications below. Scattered about London there were three other buildings of similar appearance and size. So completely did they dwarf the surrounding architecture that from the roof of Victory Mansions you could see all four of them simultaneously. They were the homes of the four Ministries between which the entire apparatus of government was divided.” (1984 p. 7-8.)
The Ministry of Truth was responsible for rewriting history and falsifying documents. The Ministry of Peace concerned itself with war. The Ministry of Plenty organized shortages and famines. And the Ministry of Love was the place for interrogations and torture.
In Orwell’s Animal Farm, life was organized around the “Seven Commandments” the animals had agreed on and which was written on the side of the barn for all to see. One commandment was, “All animals are equal.” After the conniving pigs had gradually taken over the farm, however, the other animals woke one day to see it had been changed to:
“All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.”
As I survey American culture and politics now, I see and hear deliberate twisting of language designed to confuse and mislead people, just as Orwell predicted over seventy years ago.
In keeping with the thought that “some are more equal than others,” consider the nice-sounding “Equality Act” which the US House narrowly passed and the US Senate plans to soon vote on. It has a reassuring name, which of course is by design. By naming it such, its sponsors hope to frame the issue this way: “anyone who dares oppose it must be against equality and fairness.”
By definition, politicians are masters at twisting and manipulating language. That is how many of them stay in power. I am reminded of the 1963 protest song by Tom Paxton, “What Did You Learn in School Today?” with its priceless line:
Our government’s made of the finest men, And that’s why we elect them again and again.
Time and space do not allow a detailed discussion here, but one main fear of the “Equality Act” is that it seeks to “erase” the idea of two genders, men and women–an idea, by the way, that most humans have held since the dawn of time. By “erasing” genders, by definition, you erase “womanhood.” For example, in its 31-pages, the “Equality Act” not once mentions the important word “female.”
In an irony that is “Orwellian,” many fear the Democrat Party that boasts of its commitment to “women’s rights” is now threatening to undo over a century of women’s rights progress in the name of “cancelling” concrete ideas of maleness and femaleness.
A second alarming concern is the “Equality Act” as a deliberate attack on First Amendment rights of Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Speech.
To show the seismic shifts in our culture in less than thirty years, consider the 1993 “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” aimed to strengthen the constitutional right of Freedom of Religion. In more irony, that bill was introduced to the US House of Representatives by then-Rep. Chuck Shumer (D-NY), who is now Senate Majority Leader. The late Ted Kennedy (D-MA) introduced the bill in the Senate. It unanimously passed the US House and with only three “No’s,” passed the Senate. In our day of hyper-partisanship, such bipartisan support of a bill is sadly almost unthinkable. Democrat President Bill Clinton signed it into law.
The “Equality Act” now seeks to overturn and nullify the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
The US Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote a letter to Congress on this issue: “The [Equality Act] represents the imposition by Congress of novel and divisive viewpoints regarding ‘gender’ on individuals and organizations. This includes dismissing sexual difference and falsely presenting ‘gender’ as only a social construct.”
To bring it home to Virginia, our senior Mark Warner (D-VA) is a sponsor of the “Equality Act.” Do not get me wrong: I am a huge supporter of capitalism and the belief that people should be rewarded for their smarts and hard work. At the same time, I find it “Orwellian” that according to some estimates, Sen. Warner has a net worth of $250-500 million. The US Senate has been dubbed “The world’s most exclusive club,” yet Warner is–some claim–the wealthiest member of that 100-seat body.
Meanwhile, the average salary in Virginia is $64,607.
There is a reason I teach history and languages and not math, but if my calculations are right, Sen. Warner’s net worth is about 4,688 times larger than the salary of the average Virginian. Where is the “income equality”?
Sen. Tim Kaine (D) is Virginia’s other senator. This is not doxxing, a bullying technique that should have no place in a democracy, but it is relevant for this topic. Notice, no house number is given, nor would that be appropriate. However, sources in Richmond inform me that Sen. Kaine resides on–I am not making this up–Confederate Avenue. With all the focus on “equality” and “systemic racism,” why would Sen. Kaine choose to live on Confederate Avenue?
Assuming he has a choice of where to live, where is his support of “equality?”
Out of respect for Senators Warner and Kaine and their positions in government, I reached out to their offices and asked them to answer questions and provide information for this column.
However, no response was given.
Again, where is the equality?
– Scott Dreyer
Richmond City Council renamed “Confederate Avenue” to be “Laburnum Park Boulevard” in November 2020. Prior to the renaming, Sen. Kaine and his wife had lived on Confederate Avenue for 28 years.