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On Profanity and Politics

Michigan’s newly sworn-in Rep. Rashida Tlaib got a lot of attention over the weekend after she was inadvertently taped telling a group of liberal activists that she hoped to impeach President Donald Trump, It wasn’t her use of the so-called “I Word” that drew notice, however, but rather that she called Trump a very vulgar term that implies he has Oedipal tendencies.
Trump responded that Tlaib had “disgraced herself” with such language, and of course there was also much tsk-tsking about it on the right, but they’re all hypocrites for doing so. Trump himself has used the alluded-to term in front of a large crowd knowing that the microphones were on and the cameras were rolling and it would live forever on YouTube, and he has done as much as anyone to drag America’s political discourse into the rhetorical gutter. Such Trumpian language as “schlonged” and “son of a bitch” and the use of “pussy” in a certain sense were once dutifully bowdlerized by such respectable publications as this, but these days all those asterisks seem unnecessary for even such a respectable readership as ours..
Which is a gosh-darned shame, as far as we’re concerned.
The coarsening of the American language has long been a project of the left, starting with the vastly overrated nightclub comedian Lenny Bruce and all those foul-mouthed hippy-dippy protestors and Hollywood movies of the ’60s and ’70s. President Bill Clinton’s administration also prematurely introduced the kiddos to all sorts of adult subjects on the evening news, and it’s still mostly Democrats cussing in from the children. Leftist publications and podcasts are also more prone to profanity than those on the right, too, and their audiences are clearly comfortable with except when Trump says it, as they’re also all a bunch of hypocrites.
There’s always been plenty of cussing on the right, to be sure, but for the most part it’s been saved for discreet occasions. President Richard Nixon infamously had to have numerous expletives deleted from the transcripts of the White House tapes, but at the time he thought he was only talking to his co-conspirators and didn’t guess that posterity was also listening in. Subsequent Republican presidents have surely used salty language as well, but they saved it for the appropriate occasions and took care not to do so in mixed company or with any microphones around. The erstwhile “party of family values” seemed to appreciate the effort, and fought a revanchist culture war for a more polite bygone era of popular culture and political discourse.
By the time Trump started running for president, however, much of the Republican party was in no effin’ mood for such niceties. They were convinced that they’d only to that $#@^%* President Barack Obama because their candidates had been too genteel in their attacks, and focused to much on policy disagreements rather than Obama’s African heritage and other perceived personal shortcomings, and they could clearly see Trump wasn’t going to repeat that mistake. Trump’s die-hard defenders found his frequent vulgarity “authentic,” the same meaningless word the left had always used to defend its foul-mouthed heroes, and some even misconstrued it as honesty.
Since taking office has at least been presidential enough to lay off the “f-bombs,” but he sat silently the rap star and obvious nutcase Kanye West filled the Oval Office with them, and he’s often used slightly less salty language himself, and his administration has also prematurely introduced a new generation of kiddos to some very adult subjects on the evening news.
Go ahead and call us old-fashioned, but it really does seem a dad-blamed shame. On occasion we’ll resort to profanity, but only on special occasion. There are a few jokes we like to tell which require them, but we save those for our more disreputable sort of friends, and we try not to make a habit of it lest we blurt something out in a job interview or when meeting an attractive woman’s parents or children. Besides, we’re old enough remember a time when the popular culture and political discourse were more polite, and we recall it was one of the things that made America great back then.

— Bud Norman

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The Schlong Ride to the Presidency

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are having a nasty spat, and there’s a sex angle to the story, so that’s currently the big news of the presidential race. So far Trump seems to be getting the better of it, but no one is likely to emerge unscathed from such a tawdry affair.
The brouhaha began with Trump telling one of his constant interviewers that Clinton got “schlonged” in her last presidential campaign. If you’re from outside New York City or are otherwise so goyish you don’t speak even a bissel of Yiddish, “schlong” is a low sort of synonym for penis, and the past tense verb form is pretty much self-explanatory. Clinton could have taken the high road and ignored the remark, but that would have been entirely out of character, and she could have rightly objected on the grounds that Trump was using language ill-suited to presidential politics and being downright vulgar, but that would not seem so damning after the past seven years of presidential rhetoric and late night comedy show appearances, so instead she indignantly accused Trump of sexism. The alleged schlonging was by The First Black President, too, so some quarters of the press helpfully chipped in with accusations of racism, and we expect that somebody thought to accuse the self-described Presbyterian of cultural appropriation for using a Yiddishism, and in verb form at that, and the first wave of stories had all the usual outrage.
Clinton’s inevitable accusation of sexism offered Trump an opening, however, and he shrewdly seized the opportunity to remind the public of Clinton’s role in smearing the many women who have made allegations of everything from sexual harassment to sexual assault to outright rape against her husband. The press was obliged to report it, and although most media did so with the usual outrage the charge still stung. Former President Bill Clinton’s countless extra-marital schlongings aren’t merely metaphorical, and have done more damage to public standards than anything Trump might blurt out during an interview, and Hillary Clinton’s enabling role in all the tawdry scandals belie her claim to feminist glory. Throw in all the financial scandals that belie her populist warrior image, and all the lies told to obscure her incompetence and corruption, and the character question is very much a legitimate issue in the race.
Trump is quite right to raise the issue, but he’s the wrong person to do so. The billionaire real estate mogul and reality television star is thrice-married, boasts of his womanizing past with the same shamelessness as when he boasts of his wealth, has a long history of making disparaging remarks about the physical appearance of women he dislikes, and the fact that Bill Clinton is arguably even worse is damning with faint praise. Throw in his shameless boasts of buying off politicians to aid his gambling business and using the bankruptcy laws four times to pay less of his boundless fortune to his creditors than he promised, as well as his penchant for vulgarity, and his own character issues become a legitimate issue in the race.
Still, we’ll concede that Trump has once again proved to you can say the things that were previously thought unsayable. One can only hope that someone more eloquent and admirable can take advantage of that.

— Bud Norman