I suppose I should answer the question I started with yesterday: When is a ban not a ban?

The answer of course, is: when it’s not a ban.

The meaning of the word now is quite set in stone: to forbid, not allow something to happen or exist. In the past however, it was a little more complex. It comes from the Proto-Germanic bannan, meaning proclaim, command, summon, outlaw, or forbid. Which is quite a range! Originally it seems that the word mean simply to proclaim, then came to be more commonly used to mean proclaim a threat, and then came to mean forbid.

There are still a few modern words which reveal these older meanings. Banal comes from old French, where ban evolved from decree, to authorisation, to payment for use for a communal oven or other shared good. So in this case the word came to be more about giving permission, than revoking it. Over time, it evolved from available to all, to commonplace, to boring and trite.

Another term that’s derived from ban is wedding banns, the official proclamation of marriage, usually made to the Church the couple belong to. The practice isn’t as common now as in the past, but some countries such as the Netherlands and France still require secular proclamations to be made. Interestingly, in the Canadian state of Ontario, banns “proclaimed openly in an audible voice during divine service” remain a legal alternative to acquiring a marriage licence, and two same-sex couples used this method to get married in 2001.

I hope someone on Trump’s team doesn’t see this (the man himself apparently doesn’t like to read, shockingly), and get the idea of saying that the Muslim ban is in fact just a proclamation. It would be pretty typical of how politics mangles language. Yet the history of the word ban also shows us how language continuously evolves. In “Politics and the English Language,” Orwell argued that language is flexible, and we could resist the vague language and euphemisms of political language by using clear, simple English. Similarly, we can determine the meanings of words in how we use them. Look at how the LGBTQ community and academia have reclaimed the word queer, dissolving much of its pejorative meaning. If we don’t like how our leaders use language, we can use it against them, by giving it the meaning we think it should have, not what they decide. If they tell us it’s not a Muslim ban while also telling us that Christians will get exceptional treatment, we can call it a Muslim ban. If they talk about alternative facts, we can rightly tell them that’s nonsense. Speaking and writing can be revolutionary acts, and hard to suppress.


14 thoughts on “Ban

    • Well it’s certainly not the global Muslim ban Trump had originally called for, but it’s certainly targeting Muslims if the banned people are from predominantly Muslim countries, and people of other religions get preferential treatment. I’d also be more convinced about Trump’s concerns for national security if he also blocked Saudi immigration, since Saudi nationals were responsible for the 9/11 attacks. I think the fact that there have been no attacks in the US from members of the countries under the ban shows there’s little justification for a ban, as opposed to stricter vetting, for example.

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      • I agree Saudi should be a part of it too. The 7 countries were originally identified by the Obama administration as ‘places of concern’ — so, considered ‘dangerous’ by Obama for some reason… They have expressed concerns of terrorists trying to migrate in as refugees from these places.

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        • I can understand why they’re areas of concern, and would have no problem with some stricter controls. I just think blocking refugees will do more harm than good, stopping people fleeing persecution, and I don’t think there are many among them looking to commit acts of terror, considering no refugees have yet to kill on American soil.

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          • Actually the Boston bombers (Tsarnaev brothers) came in to the U.S. as refugees. I believe Trump is looking to err on the side of safety rather than regret. The 7 countries have supposedly been studied, with 72 residents previously detained on various suspicions. But as you know there is now a ‘ban on the ban’. It will be interesting to see what happens as the case goes the Supreme Court. On a side note, the Saudi government has also agreed to house refugees in established safe zones, which should help both Europe and the U.S. (I suspect, but am not entirely sure, that Saudi upholding its safe zone bargain may be reason it was left off the list. Just my idea, no proof.)

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            • You’re right, I meant to say that no refugee from a country on the list had killed anyone. Even then though, the brothers were radicalised after they came to the U.S. through online videos. And most of the terror attacks in Europe recently have been committed by radicalised natives of European countries. I think trying to get to the heart of the radicalisation of marginalised individuals would be a more effective route to combatting terrorism. I’m also sceptical about Trump’s reasons for the ban: considering all his rhetoric during the campaign about denying entry to Muslims, I’m not convinced it was meant as a temporary measure.

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              • It is a complicated situation. Radicalization and recruitment will only be stopped with a strong world economy. In the end it is always about economics. A strong world economy starts with peace, and peace begins within individual nations. When folk are living in fear they are not at peace.

                Many things are done in the name of religion, which actually have nothing to do with religion. If I, for example, were a Muslim living in Persia during the Middle Ages, I just might support a ban on Christians — aka Christian Crusaders who would slice me up or crucify me in the name of Christ.

                Using religion to hide behind violence is an age old technique. That being said, all folks have freedom of religion in the U.S. but not freedom of violence. Truly peaceful individuals will have nothing to fear. Right now, the entire world faces the Globalist agenda, which has a goal to destroy all borders and enslave humankind. This is what we fight against.

                In the days to come, when the U.S. economy and world economy are restored, the U.S. will once again accept the huddled masses. We sincerely hope, however, that the will BE NO huddled masses!! (Maybe that is too much to hope for.)

                Peace and prosperity take many steps.

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