When I teach my history and language classes, many students, both here in the US and overseas, are surprised to learn how many words and phrases in English come from the Bible. Examples include a drop in the bucket, the blind leading the blind, to see the handwriting on the wall, the salt of the earth, to name a few.
One fascinating and little-known word from the Judeo-Christian Scriptures is “shibboleth.” Occurring only once in the Bible, in Judges 12:6, the word once played a crucial and actually deadly role in an ancient civil war. Because the two warring sides were relatives, it was hard to distinguish soldiers from either side. However, speakers of one dialect could pronounce the “sh” in “shibboleth” while the other side couldn’t. In what I now sometimes use as an opportunity to encourage my students to “learn your foreign languages!”, the side that could pronounce the “sh” was able to identify their enemies…and kill them. (This story is explained in more detail here.)
According to gotquestions.org, “Shibboleth is one of many words that the English-speaking world has borrowed from the Bible. In modern contexts, a shibboleth is any identifying word, manner of speaking, or behavior that shows someone to be part of a particular group. A person’s reference to gasoline as “petrol” is a shibboleth pointing to British influence. The word shibboleth can also refer to an old, oft-repeated idea that is widely believed but of questionable veracity; for example, a trite saying such as ‘great minds think alike’ could be considered a shibboleth.”
The story surrounding “shibboleth” came to mind as I read a recent Epoch Times article quoting now-disgraced FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried, or SBF. Until recently, the 30-year-old SBF was luxuriating in a $40 million villa in the Bahamas, donating untold millions to Democrat politicians and leftwing causes. In the wake of the FTX collapse, however, SBF now finds himself in a rat- and maggot-infested prison in that country, awaiting extradition to the US.
SBF openly boasted that he curried the image of a “do-gooder” in order to be left alone so he could get away with almost anything…until now. SBF once texted about “the dumb game we woke westerners play where we say all the right shibboleths and so everyone likes us.”
Speaking of “say all the right shibboleths,” that reminds me of the recent hearing on Capitol Hill, where Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen went, hat in hand, asking Congress to approve Kroger’s take-over of another huge grocery chain, Albertson’s.
As explained here, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) upbraided McMullen for leading a company that fired two women employees in Conway, Arkansas who asked not to wear a rainbow-colored emblem on their work smocks as they viewed that as a forced endorsement of homosexuality. Traditionally, the Democrat Party has been seen as more pro-labor while the Republican Party has been seen as pro-business. So, Cotton also scolded McMullen for trampling on his employees’ first amendment rights while hoping friendly Republicans would approve the merger and stave-off pro-worker Democrats in Congress who might try to stop the take-over.
By now, most of us know verbiage like diversity, inclusion and equity are code words for wokeness. Their acronym is DEI, but if you just switch the last two words you get DIE, which is probably a more honest portrayal of the movement and its goals.
As explained here from my personal experiences last June and again here, the Kroger lingo is now heavily-larded with woke wordings. As evidenced by Kroger and elsewhere, here are three aspects wrong with wokeness. Of course, this juggernaut against our liberties is so massive, the column only touches the tip of the iceberg.
When questioned about the firings, McMullin claimed he’d never heard about them…or the $180,000 in damages the EEOC forced Kroger to pay the two wrongfully-terminated women. I understand that a CEO can’t know all the details of a corporation…but those stories made national headlines, both when the women were fired, and when they won their court anti-discrimination cases.
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man.” If McMullin can be dishonest in front of Congress and national TV, what else is he not telling us? And how far down is Kroger Corp riddled with dishonesty?
Plus, the way “diversity” has played out these past few decades, the group at the very end of the line is heterosexual, white males. So how does McMullin remain in his CEO spot? Saying the right shibboleths seems to be part of it.
Another favored word is “equity.” Hmm. As posted here, McMullin has a financial worth of around $141 million. Meanwhile, Kroger at first gave their employees a $2/hour “Hero Bonus” for working during Covid. Yet, as McMullin later cut that bonus, he gave himself a $22.4 million bonus. Where’s the “equity”?
It’s akin to Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), the richest member of the Senate, with a fortune of some $215 million, yet touting the so-called “Equality Act.”
Sen. Cotton also asked about a Kroger training manual forbidding employees to use words like sir and ma’am. For many parts of the country, including us here in Southwest and Central Virginia, those are signs of verbal courtesy. With all the coarsening and vulgarity in our culture, many young parents still insist on that from our children.
May their tribe increase.
So, for these last, few remaining pockets of verbal decency, Kroger puts them in their cross-hairs. And to add irony to the absurdity, when Cotton asked McMullin if employees might be disciplined for saying the forbidden words, McMullin responded “Not that I’m aware of, sir.”
In his exchange with Cotton, McMullin kept repeating the mantra that Kroger is an inclusive place. If it’s so inclusive, why did they plant their jackboot (metaphorically) across the faces of those two female employees in Arkansas? And last June when I spoke with Kroger’s Mid-Atlantic director, I told him I felt uncomfortable and unwelcome in Kroger, when they had signs as soon as I came in the store promoting the logo of a leftwing political pressure group that supported Hillary Clinton’s and Joe Biden’s bids for the White House. I tried to explain, “there are many places I can go to get politics, but Kroger isn’t one of them.”
But it was in vain.
The regional manager was friendly and well-spoken, but in no uncertain terms he told me, essentially a life-long Kroger shopper, “those signs are in every store in our footprint across the country, and they’re all staying up. None are coming down.”
The exact sign in every store, nationwide? That’s not diversity, that’s conformity.
Hearing a customer’s concerns but ignoring their viewpoints or regional differences or cultures? That’s not inclusion, that’s exclusion.
Sitting on tens or hundreds of millions of dollars but passing laws or corporate policies to benefit yourself but that hurt normal people struggling to get by? That’s not equity, but, well, what would you call it?