Word Choice Matters

I went to lunch today, and as I often do while driving, listened to NPR.  When I was almost back my office, I heard a statement that made me cringe.

For context: They were discussing the transfer of Saudis from Gitmo to the de-radicalization programs meant to prevent return to violent movements through education, job training, etc.  The guest was explaining the attempts to counter to bitter anger that would lead young men to jihadist movements, by giving them opportunities they had previously lacked, but what she said was this.

They gave them jobs, homes, wives.

Are you fucking kidding me?  They gave these young men other human beings?  Or do you mean that they arranged marriages, matches, etc. according to a local practice?  Because one is fucking slavery and the other, while not a Western norm, is not actually the barbaric evil I used to think*.

I really hope the commenter simply slipped, but it’s certainly indicative of something important when we can speak in this way.

* I had this assumption challenged in a sociology class.  I had always figured that arranged marriages would be uniformly terrible, because I value the freedom to marry for love (and I still do, but I recognize it’s not a norm everywhere).  What changed my view came from a story my professor told about a previous student whose marriage had been arranged.
She commented that she thought it was sad that American fathers didn’t love their daughters.  Her reasoning was that American fathers abandoned their daughters to the winds of chance at finding a good husband who is responsible, respectful, kind, etc. while fathers like hers took pains to ensure their children were taken care of.  She claimed that she didn’t understand men, but her father did, and so he would be able to choose one who was a good man.  Now, this is a depressing (and anti-feminist) view of the sexes as practically different species; but our culture isn’t far better, look at dating advice in magazines, books that couch interactions in terms of fucking alien races and such.  While I would love for all cultures to recognize that human beings are first and foremost people, and not their gender, I can accept that there could be some value in cultural traditions of arranged marriages when spouses are selected on criteria of who will be good to and for their children.  (I keep on caveat, though, if these traditions are not  used this way in practice, and young women are traded more politically or monetarily, then it truly is an evil.)

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