Wilfred M. McClay is G.T. and Libby Blankenship Chair in the History of Liberty and director of the Center for the History of Liberty at the University of Oklahoma. His latest book is Land of Hope: An Invitation to the Great American Story (2019).
It would be absurd, not to say futile, to argue that languages and words should never change. But there is also a great deal to be said for the idea of language as a lamp, an instrument for the promulgation of ideas and ideals, one that does not merely take its bearings from the things it seeks to illuminate, but in fact reverses that set of relations, and brings its light to bear on a world that badly needs its guidance.
Belief in the bad behavior and collective arrogance of the nationstate has become an article of faith for baby boomers.