In a rare Sunday gathering, the 117th Congress was gaveled in on Jan. 3. Nancy Pelosi of California was elected by her Democratic colleagues for another term as House Speaker, as Democrats were able to retain a slim majority in the House of Representatives.
An interesting tone for the session was set in the prayer concluding the opening. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri, a pastor at St. James United Methodist Church in Kansas City, was called upon to deliver the message. The message was one of unity, imploring “may we of the 117th Congress, refuel the lamp of liberty so brimful that generations unborn will witness its undying flame.” I’m all good with those words, and I think all Americans can agree. What really struck a chord was the ending. Rep. Cleaver used a fairly standard Christian benediction, and following, he included references to other faiths. The way he did it was rather odd and cumbersome, but I think most interpreted it as an attempt to cover bases. He ended with the word “Amen.” Then, added “and A-woman.” Come again?
The use of the word “a-woman”—which isn’t really a word—was obviously some deference to the use of “Amen,” implying that the term “amen” is somehow chauvinistic and full of toxic masculinity because it contains the word “men.” One would think that a pastor by training would have been taught the origin, or etymology, of the word “amen.”
The word “amen” is meant to mean “so be it,” as an assurance, or confirmation. Kind of the original “it is what it is.” A number of major religions use it as the conclusion to prayer. It has nothing at all to do with gender identity. Surely a man of the cloth would have had training in the origin of the word “amen,” as it is used countless times. It was simply an opportunity to grandstand in a moment implying political correctness.
Cleaver was rightly criticized by congressional Republicans. A Jan. 3 Washington Examiner story outlined a couple, including tweets from Tennessee Rep. Tim Burchett “this is political correctness gone way off the rails,” and Rep. Guy Reschenthaler of Pennsylvania, who wrote “Amen is Latin for ‘so be it.’ It’s not a gendered word. Unfortunately, facts are irrelevant to progressives. Unbelievable.”
The real reason for Rep. Cleaver’s enhancement of the English language was perhaps in deference to new rules for language and decorum proposed for the 117th Congress. In a move to “honor all gender identities,” as described in a Jan. 1 Daily Caller story, Pelosi and Rules Committee Chair James McGovern outlined the proposal that would require the use of gender neutral terms. “References to fathers, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives and in-laws would be changed to “parent, child, sibling, spouse, or parent-in-law,” according to the resolution. Extended family members would be referred to as “child’s parent” instead of aunt or uncle, stepparents, and siblings-in-law.” I wish I could be making this up.
While this may seem an innocuous move, asking House members to remove any actual gender references to their own family members or constituents does a great disservice to the actual humanity of their stories and the needs of their constituencies. Is it really harmful to anyone to refer to a thankfulness for your grandfather’s service to this nation in World War II, or appreciate the warmth and affection of your own mother – and actually use those terms in your references? When referring to challenges faced by constituents, are you now not allowed to provide a picture of those who are exploited?
This step removes much of the simple empathy from these descriptions. If there are individuals who prefer not to be referred to by a gender or other designation, that is certainly their choice, and that should be respected. This is certainly not intended to disparage any person, nor their identities. Words like “mankind,” and “forefathers” are long understood to be inclusive of all people, and are not exclusive to men alone. I guess we can also remove the term “Madame Speaker,” and just call Rep. Pelosi “Speaker.”
Isn’t the country faced with bigger issues? This is ridiculous. Where does this stop? Will other political bodies follow suit? Will schools have crackdowns on calling your parents “mom” and “dad”? Are we to no longer refer to our mothers and fathers by those designations? I guess I can’t wait for the first representative in Congress to mess up, and call their spouse their “husband” or “wife,” or refer to a child by a specific gender. Oh, the humanity. Let’s just hope it’s not “Speaker” Pelosi.
Scott Frostman lives in Baraboo, and has roots throughout Wisconsin. He currently serves as the chairman of the Republican Party of Sauk County. Opinions herein are exclusively his own and not those of the Republican parties of Wisconsin or Sauk County. He believes anyone can make a difference and can be reached at email@example.com.