Glossary of Important Terms


Acupuncture: An alternative medical technique involving the shallow insertion of needles through the skin at particular points on the body (called acupoints) that is widely believed, without a shred of scientific evidence, to be effective in the treatment of all sorts of ailments.

Alternative medicine: A cluster of treatments and potions that are often, but not always, effective for those who strongly believe in them and have invariably fatal consequences when persistently applied to life-threatening conditions.

Atheist: In American politics, less electable than Beelzebub.

Birthers: Americans who believe that Kenyan socialists are the cleverest people on the planet.

Communist: In American politics, a latte-sipping environmentalist, anti vaxer and anti-GMO activist, usually a Democrat.

Evidence: Highly valued by those who privilege the Western scientific tradition over other ways of knowing such as guessing.

Fascist: In American politics, a bombastic, sexist, xenophobic ignoramus, usually a Republican.

First responders: In America, the first to be thanked for unbelievable bravery after a mass shooting, always in the first press conference.

Global economy: A happy marriage of free-market economics and information technology that makes it possible for a successful entrepreneur in Manhattan to order a $150 gourmet pizza from a call centre in Pakistan staffed by people who have never tasted any kind of pizza and have it delivered in 20 minutes by a Polish immigrant and former CEO who can’t afford gourmet pizza.

Global warming: In American politics, roundly denied by most Republicans because it sure as hell snowed this winter in Cincinnati last time anybody checked.

God: In America, the second to be thanked after a mass shooting for mercifully not allowing even more victims to be slaughtered, usually mentioned in all press conferences but the first.

Gun control: In American politics, the complete control of Congress by the pro-gun lobby.

Healing process: In America, the final stage of a mass shooting, usually mentioned in the last press conference.

Kafkaesque: An adjective that is now used primarily to describe American politics.

Making the minyan: In Judaism, being the tenth to show up for services, ensuring a quorum for a full service including Torah readings and in morning services dashing hopes of an early coffee.

Multi-Culturalism: Eating pierogis in a curry sauce for Chanukah while chestnuts are roasting in an open fire.

Nationalism: The triumph of pride over shame regarding the actions of one’s own nation coupled with a heightened awareness of the crimes and failings of other nations.

New Age: A spiritual movement of those who think traditional religions don’t make sense but astrology does.

Panentheism: The belief, common among New Agers who are not big on specifics, that God is all that exists

Prayer: In America, the only answer to mass shootings.

Privilege theory: Ruminations about an advantage that some academics have recently discovered is enjoyed by dominant groups.

Reiki: A form of so-called energy healing that is so implausible it makes acupuncture seem scientific.

Republican primaries: In American politics, an opportunity for the Republican Party to showcase its least electable presidential candidates.

Spirituality without religion:  Unstructured self-righteousness.

Tea Party: An American political movement within the Republican Party made up of people who think Sarah Palin makes sense.

Terrorism: In America, any act of violence perpetrated by a Muslim or somebody who looks like a Muslim.

Trumpism: The belief that egregiously racist and sexist thoughts one would never utter in polite company make for good government policy if Donald Trump says them.

Universal health care: In America, the distasteful notion that the undeserving poor will get the same quality of health care as everybody else.

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