"Thank you for asking".
If I am ever able to realize my dream to establish an Insincerity Hall of Fame that phrase will have a prominent place.
It's the usually dismissive response from someone who has just been asked "How ya doin'?". I always want to fire back with "Thank you for answering" or "Thank you for thanking me for asking".
Come to think of it "How ya doin'" belongs in this memorial to meaninglessness.
Truth is we don't really don't care how you're doing. In fact the possibility you might tell us causes us to shudder.
"Nice to see you" is another one, almost always the automatic greeting from someone who is looking over your shoulder and doesn't really see you at all.
Washington would be the obvious home for an Insincerity Hall of Fame. The language of phoniness is a fine art here. Where else but the US Senate is it required that a member refers to his or her most bitter enemy as "My Friend"?
Only here can those who absolutely want to sabotage health care reform, feel no shame in piously declaring they are for "Sensible Reform".
This is the safe haven for those members of Congress who express the most intense outrage over our economic collapse while rigidly opposing any effective regulation of those who caused the debacle and, by the way, make huge contributions to the incumbents' re-election funds.
We get to have it both ways, because what's spoken here is the language of deception. But it is not unique to Washington.
We see it everywhere: From the local TV stations who constantly declare "We care about our community", when they really care about maximizing their ratings and the profits of owners who live far far away.
We hear the same thing from the corporations closer to home, shortly before they pull up stakes and move much further from home, where low wages trump loyalty and social responsibility.
Still, Washington is the center of the semantic alternative universe. Every minute we are presented with the work of the disingenuous geniuses and their masterpieces of the false and the hollow: "I don't pay attention to the polls", "This isn't about politics", "I've given no thought about whether I'm going to run for President", "Those huge campaign contributions have no effect on my support for that legislation", "No new taxes" " "Most of all, I am sorry for the pain I have caused my family".
The litany goes on and on. What is most remarkable is that it is all routinely delivered with a straight face here. The question is should we construct a separate Pantheon of Platitude or should we just add a wing to an existing structure, like the Capitol building or White House, where so much of this stuff has a natural home.
Right now you're probably wondering whether there's been any support for my idea about an Insincerity Hall of Fame. In fact, any number of people have expressed interest.
They didn't really mean it.
But thank you for asking.