Dear Barack Obama, Please Stop Comparing Terrorists to Cancer

Dear Barack Obama,

Sorry to bother you in the middle of a war.

I listened attentively to your speech before the United Nations this Wednesday. And once again, you brought out your cancer metaphor to describe the self-proclaimed Islamic State:

“[W]e will come together to reject the cancer of violent extremism.”

It’s definitely not the first time:

Aug. 20: “[T]here has to be a common effort to extract this cancer so that it does not spread.”

Sept. 10: “[I]t will take time to eradicate a cancer like ISIL.”

A Not-Very-Original Metaphor

That a great speaker, at the head of an army of speech writers, repeats himself is already, in itself, worthy of critique. Is it an indication of your inability to describe this threat differently?

What’s more, you have to admit that the cancer metaphor isn’t very original. It’s a classic in the mouth of American politicians. I’ll just give you two examples, so as not to take up too much of your time.

In March 1973, Richard Nixon’s counsel, John Dean, told him that Watergate was “a cancer within … the presidency.”

Twenty-five years later, at the time of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, the very conservative Republican Andrew Sullivan unleashed his hatred: “Clinton is a cancer on the culture, a cancer of cynicism, narcissism and deceit. At some point, not even the most stellar of economic records, not even the most prosperous of decades, is worth the price of such a cancer metastasizing even further. It is time to be rid of it.”

Mr. Obama, you’re better than they are, aren’t you?

Spare Us This Pain

But there’s more.

There are millions of sick people who suffer from or have suffered from cancer, including the author of these lines. Each year, more than 14 million people are diagnosed with cancer. Each year, more than 8 million people die from it. And it’s getting worse.

So have mercy, Mr. President, and spare us the additional pain of having our bodies be the home for absolute evil, for the vile savagery for which human life has no value.

To call things by incorrect names is to add to the world’s misery (and to that of people).



About this publication

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply