“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

“It gets harder to name children when you get older. Because by the time you’re in your thirties every name you think of reminds you of someone you hate.”

People who want to lead society in a new direction are going to have to start doing a better job of test marketing their language. Focus groups. A/B testing. Stuff like that.

The need to do some major rethinking of the ways we live, all around the world, to deal with the problems of climate change continue to be handicapped by the fact that, when the alarm was first raised, the phenomenon was called “global warming.”

It is a scientifically accurate expression. The core of the problem is that the average temperature of the tiny sliver of the galaxy where we live has been going up. Just a difference of a few degrees can alter the global climate patterns, causing droughts there, floods here, hurricanes over yonder, giant wildfires in California, blizzards in New York and a dispiriting — and ski-industry-crushing — lack of snowfall in Utah.

To quote the folks at NASA who really know this stuff: “Global warming refers to surface temperature increases, while climate change includes global warming and everything else that increasing greenhouse gas amounts will affect.”

But those who have built a career denying that there is a problem, or pretending that all that carbon that we’ve been dumping into the atmosphere for 200 years isn’t the primary cause of it, like to cling to the term global warming as a way of pretending that every cold snap or snowfall means that the planet isn’t really getting warmer.

In 2015, Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Big Oil, made a global fool of himself by bringing a snowball onto the floor of the Senate as a way of proving that, as long as water fell from the sky as ice, there was clearly no such thing as global warming.

And just the other day, the presidential Twitter account was graced by this idiocy.

It was part of his studied (if such a word can apply to anything this ignoramus does) efforts to deny that such a thing exists and that the best brains of his own administration are warning of dire consequences — most recently in a report that was released on the day after Thanksgiving in hopes that nobody would notice.

The problem of giving something the wrong name is also crucial in understanding a big reason why Utah lacks a proper law to deal with those who commit acts of violence against individuals due to the victim’s race, heritage, faith, sexuality or other characteristic.

The common term for such a statute is a “hate crimes law.” It is a law that makes it a more serious act, punishable by longer prison terms, for acts of violence, intimidation or vandalism that clearly target victims of certain groups or classes. The feds and some states have those laws. We don’t.

The argument against such a law, to the extent that anyone bothers to make an argument, is that the state cannot or should not criminalize an emotion, e.g. hate, because that’s too much like making it a crime to think the politically incorrect thing. That is not what such a law would be. It would only criminalize stuff that’s already criminal — like beating the daylights out of some poor guy at the tire store because, in the alleged words of the thug who did it, "I hate Mexicans. I f---ing hate Mexicans. … I’m here to kill a Mexican.”

Just as stealing a car is a worse crime than stealing a candy bar, and murdering someone is a worse crime than tying someone’s shoelaces together, committing an act of violence against one person in a way that is intended to, or does, cause fear among many others is a worse crime than even the most vicious attack against an individual that only targets the individual.

If we want a real law that would treat such crimes as seriously as we should, we are going to have to stop calling them hate crimes. Even if that’s what they are. And start calling them by another, stronger and more accurate name that might get more people’s proper attention.


(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Tribune staff. George Pyle.


Twitter, @debatestate