In Defiance column: What does that even mean?
March 11, 2018
I've gotten lots of phone calls and emails since I took the editor's helm here at the Post Independent little more than five weeks ago.
Thanks for the all the congratulations … or condolences, as some have offered.
Trust me, there are days.
As expected, a lot of those calls and emails come from folks who want something that the previous editor wasn't inclined to budge on, and who think I might be more malleable.
"Hey, since you're the new editor, and all …"
Tell you what, I'm sure he had his reasons, and I'll have mine. Let me get back to you on that.
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And, of course, there are the "Here's what I think you should do" types who think their ideas are best.
Like, returning to an anonymous story comment forum online instead of linking comments to people's Facebook accounts. Yeah, not going to happen. We're all about holding people accountable for their thoughts and opinions here, thank you.
And then there are the "What the heck are you doing!" calls.
Not sure just yet, to be honest, might be my answer. But I'm working on it.
Then there was a call the other day from an elderly reader who wanted to know what a certain word used by a certain regular letter-writer means, exactly.
The word? "Buttercup."
Not the flower, or the variety of squash, but in this instance buttercup was used in a derogatory way to describe political conservatives, and specifically Republicans.
I had the same question when I edited said letter, and my first thought was, as you might expect: What does that even mean?
I assumed it was being used to counter the term "snowflake," which Trump supporters started using during the 2016 presidential campaign to describe liberal Democrats.
But it did cause me to look it up, just as I had to look up what exactly snowflake meant when I started hearing and reading the term with regularity in Facebook posts and Tweets, and conversations with some of my conservative friends.
As with a lot of words in the English language these days, there's a real meaning for these words, and then some alt-meaning found in online slang dictionaries.
So, I learned that a snowflake isn't just the crystallized frozen form precipitation takes when the temperature is cold enough — that which we have been far too lacking in this winter.
No, according to a January 2017 article at Think Progress, snowflake first started being used as a "dig at millennials perceived to have an outsize sense of their own individuality and, by extension, importance." The insult expanded during the 2016 election as a choice word used by right-wingers "to fling at anyone who could be accused of being too easily offended, too in need of "safe spaces," too "fragile," according to the article.
So, now for buttercup, which I hadn't been familiar with until the epithet was included in a letter attacking Republicans. Sure enough, it, too, has a place in the urban dictionary.
According to the official (or one of many) online slang dictionary, a buttercup is "one who is of weak in nature; soft; or is harmless. The term can be used in the phrase of expressing a demeaning weakness about a person or person's character."
Let's face it, the political discourse has gotten rather nasty these days.
If one person calls someone who doesn't agree with them a mean name, the easily offended person in turn seems to think they have to come up with an equally mean name to lob right back at them.
Heck, I admit I have a favorite comeback whenever I get into a political argument that doesn't seem to be going anywhere: I refuse to have a battle of wits with an unarmed person. Saw it on a T-shirt once.
But does name-calling ever really get us anywhere? I think history holds the answer.
No, the only time we ever really came to any sort of meaningful agreement was when we set aside our political differences and embraced what we have in common. What we usually discover in that exercise is that we have far more in common than we might think.
Now, is the snowflake going to walk down the aisle with the buttercup? Cute image for some animator somewhere, but probably not going to happen.
At the very root, though, mutual respect is a start.
John Stroud is editor of the Glenwood Springs Post Independent.