To CALIBRATE or not to CALIBRATE

The word is already catching on, and the commentators and pundits will soon be using it profusely, and all the more so because the messiah, aka President Obama, coined it in his famous second response to his own first response regarding the mental capacity of the Cambridge, Massachusetts, police force, to wit, that the Cambridge police acted STUPIDLY with respect to the unwarranted (by the president’s calculation) arrest of Harvard guru Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Gates is director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University. His only problem: breaking and entering into his own house, as noted by a witness.

Actually, the good professor didn’t have a PROBLEM. The word problem disappeared from polite – and even impolite – society years ago, when it was replaced by the softer term “issue.” “Problem” has such a rough edge to it, representing as it does…well, problems, which nearly always connote inconvenience regarding things, places, and people. The guy had a “problem” with his wife’s spending, so he cut up the credit cards. That sounds so, so harsh. So, the word police figured that the two actually just had an issue. Problems have to be solved, but issues can be negotiated or just plain forgotten, so when the wife got another card and the husband shot her dead, he didn’t solve a problem, just settled an “issue.”

The good professor whipped out his well-practiced tongue and laid some invective upon the police officer, which is what essentially caused his trip downtown. In other words, he had a mean-streak. But mean-streak is so…well, harsh. That kind of talk disappeared decades ago and was replaced by the word-tenderizers with the term “attitude.” The kid was mean as a snake and stomped his little sister, thus damning himself to “timeout,” which used to mean punishment, but fell into disrepute because punishment is so…well, harsh-sounding. The innocent kid just needed an attitude-adjustment. So, the good professor merely had an “attitude” and was introduced to a mild “timeout” for a bit of “adjustment.”

What is the new magic word? CALIBRATE! Calibrate is defined as “to standardize (as a measuring instrument) by determining the deviation from a standard so as to ascertain the proper correction factors; to adjust precisely for a particular function; to measure precisely; to measure against a standard” (Merriam-Webster Collegiate, 11th Edition). The president was quite straightforward in his initial judgment regarding the Cambridge police as being STUPID.

Ah…but even in this day of the politically correct worship of terms such as “diversity” and “multiculturalism” and “white-racism condemnation,” the prez brought down heaps of attitudes that resulted in piles of issues eventuating in the need to arm the president’s teleprompter with a proper response to what (gasp) appeared to be a racist (the arresting officer was – Egad! – white) statement of the deepest profoundness. Since some say the term “stupidly” was unrehearsed and not even on the teleprompter, it displayed precisely the president’s racial bias.

The messiah’s response was to say that he should have CALIBRATED his response differently, i.e., that he should have measured his use of the word “stupidly” against a standard that would have allowed him to say exactly the same thing but not in an offensive way, thus removing the harshness of his answer and replacing it with a Rodney-King-can’t-we-all-just-get-along thing, meaning, of course, that the police were still actually stupid but that he should have said something like, “They acted in a mind-boggling way to correct a non-problem.”

The term “mind-boggling” is used every day and connotes an act defying intelligence (ignorance, craziness), but it’s so sweet-sounding when compared to the harsh STUPIDLY, and the innocent-sounding term “non-problem” connotes…well, “police stupidity” in not understanding that there was no problem or issue or need for a timeout downtown, in the first place. So, the same racist statement would be cleansed once CALIBRATION took place, and the prez would come out of the issue dressed in the proper coating of Teflon.

Or…the president just didn’t know what CALIBRATE means when he used that term to attempt to sidestep the ISSUE and avoid seeming to have an ATTITUDE. But the truth is that he had – and still has – a PROBLEM in bad need of something besides a CALIBRATION!