Could Someone Please Define “Hostage”?

October 10th, 2013

Since the government shutdown began, President Obama freely throws around the word “hostage.”  He uses it in tandem with words like “ransom” and “terrorist.”  Evidently, in Obama’s opinion, these Republican House members from Middle America are some really bad dudes.

The “hostage” Obama refers to is the Affordable Care Act/ObamaCare.  Exactly how one holds a law hostage is somewhat unclear. Technically, by definition a hostage is “a person seized or held as security for the fulfillment of a condition.”  Clearly, ObamaCare isn’t a person. Given that, perhaps we can all agree that President Obama is being a bit overly dramatic when he uses this term.

An event occurred at the beginning of the government shutdown which begs the question of what “hostage” really means. Do the events in Yosemite National Park last week constitute a “hostage” situation?

According to news reports, as the shutdown began, Park Rangers at Yosemite began the process of removing people visiting the park.  The following announcement was issued:  “Stopping or recreating will be prohibited.”

During the initial shutdown of the park, a group of senior citizens from America and abroad (Australia, Japan, and Canada) with reservations at an onsite hotel found themselves held inside the hotel by “armed guards.”  When they were finally permitted to leave in a bus, these tourists were forbidden to stop at a privately owned but onsite dude ranch to use the restroom.  At one point along the journey the bus was stopped by a herd of bison and the group exited the bus to take photographs.  They were immediately stopped by an armed ranger and ordered back into the bus. According to the ranger, this constituted “recreating,” clearly a violation of the posted order.

Welcome to North Korea. .  .uh . . . the United States.

Interviewed by the press, the tour group leader said that some of the Japanese tourists believed they were actually under arrest during the ordeal.  Afterwards, most of the foreign visitors pledged never to return to America.

There are no reports as to the reaction of any of the Americans and if any of them are seeking exile elsewhere.

So was this a hostage taking?  Let’s look at that definition again.

Clearly, they were being “held” in the hotel.  Whether they were actually “seized” isn’t clear in the reports.  Since no one sought monetary compensation for their safe passage out of the park, technically, this isn’t a hostage taking.

Nevertheless, it is clearly closer to the definition than what Congress proposed with respect to ObamaCare.

Failing to fund ObamaCare as part of the budget is not a hostage taking and Obama should end the dramatics.

If he’s going to take up acting, he should start by acting like a president.