Saturday, February 4, 2012

#35 / Must

Two headlines on the editorial page of the Wednesday, February 1, 2012 San Jose Mercury News caught my eye. The online versions have a different wording of the headline; here is what the print edition said:
State must fight early childhood education cuts

U.S. must not cut investment in medical research
I happen to agree with the advocacy position taken in the Mercury editorial on early childhood education, and in the opinion piece by Dr. Phillip Pizzo on medical research. I do want to complain, however, about the headline writer's use of the word "must."

In our political world, "must" doesn't actually apply. "Should," or "ought to" is a perfectly appropriate statement, but nothing in the world we create is preordained. There are no inevitabilities. Attention to the subtleties of our language is actually important. If things "must" be one way or the other, why should we all get involved? Furthermore, telling people what they "must" do is often offputting. If no law already exists, I don't think "must" is the right word.

Both editorial statements were urging action to accomplish a goal. And I am all for the goals and objectives being urged upon us. Let's not forget, though, that we "choose" our future. We create the world we most immediately inhabit. In our world, in the "political world" these statements were addressing, everything is "possible," and nothing "must" happen.

1 comment:

  1. I think I feel the same way about should as you do about must...


Thanks for your comment!