"The what hypothesis?" Melissa Fox held up her hand to halt the whispered verbal avalanche she'd unleashed. It was her second visit with the folks of Constitutional Evolution, an activist group that was exploring ways to improve the processes of governance.
Derek Boa chuckled. "Whorf. No, not the Klingon from Star Trek. Benjamin Whorf. Chemical Engineer studying linguistics in the 1930s. Anyway, the point is that if there aren't words for something, you can't think about it, much less talk about it."
She nodded, and brushed a loop of blond hair from her face. "Like in '1984'. Well, it was making a silly picture in my head, you know."
"I can imagine. Having an artist around here expands the language we can use to communicate the ideas we're exploring. A picture, as they say..."
Rodney Falk, leaning over the table at them, theatrically cleared his throat. "You done with your sidebar, Counselor? Emotional arguments, remember? I was just getting into the underside of this debate, and here you are trying to yank it back into academia."
Derek slipped his hand forward to stop the black man's fingers from drumming the table a second time. "Sorry. You have the floor."
Falk returned to the center of the room, and looked around.
Melissa and Derek were seated, along with the rest of the group, behind two half-rings of tables, playing members of Congress. They were exploring how sensitive topics were spoken about, using peace for their hot potato. Rodney, who spent his free time stirring up protests, was one of the warhawks.
"As I was saying," he drawled broadly, having gotten back into character, "this country was founded through an act of war. And it has been drawn into wars time and again to put down the forces of evil. It does exist. And if we're not on our guard, it will destroy the sacred freedoms that make this country what it is."
The scraping of chair legs echoed against the bare walls. "Will the speaker yield for a question?" It was Derek.
Falk turned. "If it's brief and on topic, Mr Boa."
Rodney's informal response was one of the things they were experimenting with today. Melissa had pointed out that all of the formalities, calling one another 'Distinguished', and never by name, enforced a psychological distance between people who were supposed to be working towards a common purpose. She'd known about it from school, but seeing her dad do it in the House of Representatives had brought it home to her. They also did away with dividing the room by party, opting instead to arrange members based on geography. There were pros and cons to this, and they weren't convinced it was the right solution.
"These wars, Mr. Falk, might as well be brands. They've got names -- Revolutionary War, Civil War, World Wars I and II. Or we talk about where they're fought -- Korea, Vietnam, Iraq. How many of these were clear cases of 'good' versus 'evil'? Was the British Crown evil when the founders wrote the Declaration?"
Rodney closed his eyes. "The patriots who gathered in Philadelphia certainly thought so."
Derek shook his head. "I doubt that. If they had, they would have said as much in the Declaration of Independence. No. What Jefferson wrote about was an abuse of power. And what about the Civil War? Did half the states suddenly turn evil?"
Rodney's jaw clenched. "The states? Probably not, but the slave owners--."