You want transparency? I’ll give you transparency!

Today’s essay is about a wonderful new pun.  It isn’t my pun.  It isn’t even my kind of pun.  I’m just a fan.

I make a point of that because what I had in mind writing on today was how long it had been since I had written a post of the kind I imagined I would be writing.  I chose the label “dilettante” as an aspiration.  “Dilettante” derives from the Latin, delecare, to take delight in.  My idea was that I would be writing episodically about things that tickled my funny bone. [1]

That’s not entirely the way it has been over the last ten years.  I have written about things I just learned that excited me and things that just pissed me off and sometimes, even things I wanted to call to the attention of some larger public.  That has been particularly true as the Trump era as arrived.

But they didn’t meet the “complete delight” criterion I has in mind when I chose a name for the blog.  Today’s essay does.

We are having an election of sorts here at Holladay Park Plaza, where Bette and I live.  It’s no big deal, really.  The changes that are being proposed to our bylaws are few and small.  Besides that, they are necessary.  Still, there has recently developed an undertone of uneasiness about politics that has made every proposal for change…suspect.  And those suspicions have led to calls for “more transparency.”

And that’s where this essay comes in.

At a recent meeting of the Bylaws Task Group, Rob Super, a fellow resident and fellow Transparenttask group member,  proposed a new kind of ballot box.  Here it is.  First I thought it was just a quip.  It was a very good quip, but words are cheap.  Then he brought a drawing of a scale model.  It was a very good drawing, but drawings are just pencil and paper.

But then he built the thing and put it of the front desk next to a stack of ballots.  You can see that the corners have been cut out and you can see that the openings made by those cuts have been replaced with glass.  What you can’t see (yet) is the motto that produced this box: “Cutting corners to ensure transparency.”

The reason we make such extensive use of metaphors is that they take ideas that are hard to express clearly, and make the meaning clear by saying that one thing is like another.  If there are supposed to be three safety inspections and you provide time for only two, someone will say that “cutting corners” is risky and everyone will know what they mean even though no actual corners are being cut.  If you say that no motion will be made until it has been posted in a public place for two weeks, people will say that the process has been made more transparent by that.  Those are both metaphorical uses that are common.

What Rob has done is to take these two common metaphors and make them literally true.  They aren’t metaphors anymore.  Rob actually did cut corners.  There were corners there and he cut them out.  And it really does ensure transparency.  You can see right into the box.  How transparent is that!

So thanks, Rob.  You made my day. [2]

[1]  Another of my favorite puns.  The actual name of the bone we call the “funny bone” is the humerus.

[2]  And that includes all the days when I will get to tell my friends and former students about this really great ballot box. (And the best of these students will say, “Why do you want a really really big ballot box?”  They will say that so that I can say, “It isn’t really great.  It’s just a metaphor.”)

About hessd

Here is all you need to know to follow this blog. I am an old man and I love to think about why we say the things we do. I've taught at the elementary, secondary, collegiate, and doctoral levels. I don't think one is easier than another. They are hard in different ways. I have taught political science for a long time and have practiced politics in and around the Oregon Legislature. I don't think one is easier than another. They are hard in different ways. You'll be seeing a lot about my favorite topics here. There will be religious reflections (I'm a Christian) and political reflections (I'm a Democrat) and a good deal of whimsy. I'm a dilettante.
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