When Magical Thinking Enters the Arena

College Conservative I was recently awoken from a Zyrtec-induced (allergies are the worst) stupor in my American Revolution seminar class when I heard my professor make an off-handed comment about “magic words.” Having recently spent an undisclosed number of hours watching multiple Harry Potter movies, I assumed that he was referring to words like “Wingardium Leviosa” shouted with a swish and flick of a magic wand. Needless to say, I was a little off. The magic words he meant have probably never echoed through the halls of Hogwarts, yet they have become unbelievably common in our cultural vernacular.

What my professor meant was words like “feminism,” “social justice,” and “fair share;” words whose meanings are perpetually twisted and stretched to fit a political agenda. Substantially speaking, these words are nothing more than fluff. They rely not on rationality, but on emotion. “Feminism” invokes feelings of female empowerment; “social justice,” feelings of equality and solidarity. For me, the words “fair share” usually evoke anger and frustration because of the common misuse of the phrase, but those “magic words” are intended also to invoke feelings of fairness and equality. While these “magic words” or broader—“magical thinking” are useful during campaign speeches, on holidays, or at memorials, when applied to public policy, they take a far more sinister turn.

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