Watermelons and giraffes

My daughter was born in June 2008, in Hollywood, California, the same year California voters went to the ballot box to reject same-sex "marriage" by a significant margin.  Over the course of the next seven years, court after court overturned the voters' understanding of the word "marriage," and, in 2015, the Supreme Court settled the matter (at least for now) in the Obergefell decision.

Around the time my daughter turned three, I began to engage her in an interesting game.  Whenever we would see a giraffe — whether a stuffed animal, toy, or image of a giraffe — I would refer to it as a watermelon. Conversely, whenever we would see a watermelon, I would refer to it as a giraffe.

It was fascinating to see the glee with which she corrected me.  It went beyond the use of the correct noun to describe a physical thing; rather, it made her happy to see that she could correct how I misperceived reality.  Even as a toddler, she knew that I was not simply mixing up words, but that my use of language was disordered.

Over the next few years, we would have many playful discussions about my misnaming giraffes and watermelons.  I would ask: if a watermelon had very long legs and a very long neck and a very distinctive coat of large patches, would it not be a giraffe?  No, she would answer, a watermelon could never have four very long legs and a very long neck, and a very distinctive coat of large patches, because then it would not be a watermelon.

As time went on, and the transgender insanity took hold of our media and elites, I expanded the game to meet the different challenges.  When the opportunity presented itself, while walking through the produce section of the market, I pointed out a display of watermelons and declared them giraffes.  She corrected me, but then I asked, could the watermelons be giraffes if they felt like they were giraffes?  Maybe, I asked, the watermelons were actually giraffes, but we were perceiving them incorrectly.  If the watermelons actually felt more like giraffes than watermelons, maybe we were wrong, and the watermelons (giraffes?) were right.

She would correct me again, pointing out that it was not up to the watermelons to define themselves — that the watermelons were defined by their characteristics, by what they actually were.

Children learn the nature of reality at an early age.  They innately understand the symbolic nature of language even before they read Genesis, or Plato, or Noam Chomsky, for that matter.  They learn from watching and listening to their parents and observing that language works to define the world around them.  They also seem to understand that language has a sacred element to it, that there is something transcendent in its use and purpose.  Children also seem to know that there is something intrinsically bad about the misuse or abuse of language, but adults seem to have lost this ability.

When a news reporter describes a riot as "mostly peaceful" while a conflagration rages behind him, most people do not pause to consider the contradiction.  When a man announces that he is running for governor in California but presents himself as a woman, we react politely and acquiesce to his perception of reality.  When schools indoctrinate children with Critical Race Theory programs that promote racism, the word "racism" loses its meaning.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently praised Planned Parenthood for the many babies the organization saves every year through prenatal services provided to expectant mothers.  Absent from her assertion is the fact that Planned Parenthood commits over 350,000 procedures every year in which the outcomes are not favorable to those baby lives.  In fact, Planned Parenthood's services are designed to end the lives of babies, and no quantity of vitamins or maternal supplements can ameliorate the horrific nature of its business plan.

Most parents like to believe that their children are brighter than other people's children, and I confess to this conceit.  But all children have the gift of understanding language and the world it defines, a gift we seem to lose as adults.  Perhaps not all of us lose this ability, but enough do to empower those who would abuse language and distort reality.

Language has always been plastic and malleable, and it changes over time.  But what should not change is the purpose of language.  The primary purpose is to communicate between individuals and cultures within a shared reality.  The differences between giraffes and watermelons are undeniable.  Until quite recently, the differences between a man and a woman were also easily recognizable, even for a child.

Chris Boland can be contacted at cboland7@outlook.com.

Image: Watermelons by Steve Evans (CC BY 2.0) and Giraffes by Bernard Dupont (CC BY-SA 2.0), edited by Andrea Widburg.

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