Never use a big word when a filthy one will do
Wicked words are the prelude to wicked deeds.
– Samuel Richardson
Words are the physicians of a mind diseased.
The sharpest sword is a word spoken in wrath.
When I was a child of 7 or 8 years, I got into a fight with one of the neighbor children who also happened to be a classmate of mine. I don’t recall what the fight was about, but I do remember two things about the incident. The first thing was that somehow he had torn my shirt and ran from me. I chased and yelled out some form or another of the forbidden “F” word. Unfortunately for me, and this is the second part of the memory that is etched indelibly into my psyche, just at the moment I said it my sister had entered the building complex and heard me. She was a bit older, a high school graduate and now a cog in the wheel of the working economy. We were all products of a Catholic school system lorded over by nuns who were not exactly middle aged but who might have actually had a ringside seat to the middle ages. Before I knew it a very tight grip was placed on my ear and I was being pulled up the five flights of stairs to our apartment. My pleas that none of this was my fault, he had started it and by the way he ripped my shirt, were to no avail. Before you could say Ivory Soap 99 44/100% pure and it floats, I was taking a big bite of a bar of Proctor and Gamble’s finest.
Words matter. And I don’t mean by that the use of cuss words per se. Certain words are better kept to ourselves, but context is important. Beto O’Rourke’s use of the “F” word in a spontaneous and heartfelt moment regarding the insanity of American gun violence harms no none. The normalization, through words of violence against those we disagree with is an abuse of the rights extended through the first amendment. Anyone promoting lies designed to denigrate others or to commit acts contrary to the well being of democracy or the well being of 320 million Americans should be exposed.
Texas state Rep. Briscoe Cain’s tweet “My AR is ready for you” to Mr. O’Rourke’s commentary after a presidential debate, wasn’t likely meant as a literal threat. Earlier in the evening, in answer to a question about whether he truly wished to disarm people of wartime artillery Mr. O’Rourke gave an impassioned oration of his plans to do exactly that. His hometown of El Paso, Texas had suffered through one of the worst mass slaughters in the country’s recent history. To add kerosene to the fire of blatant insanity that pedestrian availability to this type of weaponry already represents, the El Paso shooter, came to this bloodbath equipped with a WASR-10 and a bundle of racial animosity. His specific mission was to massacre as many people of Hispanic lineage as possible. Mr. Cain’s tweet may not have had a literal intent, but it is hard to deny that this type of speech in the eyes and ears of certain personalities may result in fatal eventualities.
The use of hostile rhetoric in the history of American politics is nothing new. In 1965 President Lyndon Johnson supposedly told the Greek Ambassador to the United States “fuck your parliament and your constitution”. Years later, then Vice -President Dick Cheney told Sen. Patrick Leahy to “go fuck yourself”. This was on the floor of what has been referred to as “the world’s greatest deliberative body”, the United States Senate. Yet in these times, people are more outraged about Beto O’Rourke using the “F” word in a state of absolute mortification over the senseless deaths of innocent human beings than they are about the actual problem of military style weapons in the hands of just about anybody who wants them. Including anybody with a score to settle either real or perceived.
A year and a half before the signing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act George Wallace stood on the steps of the Alabama State Capitol declaring “segregation now, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever” during his inaugural address as Governor. In a state so endowed with the most virulent strains of American racist activity from the institutional type to the downright violent, these words coming from the most powerful political figure in the state must have had the most chilling effect on anyone with a darker than Caucasian skin tone.
Ronald Reagan was known as a political figure of great oratorical ability and was characterized throughout his political career as a “uniter”, often praised for his ability to “reach across the aisle” to people like Thomas “Tip” O’Neil to get legislation passed. But he too was not himself exempt from moments of less than noble verbosity. On recently released tapes of a phone call between him and disgraced President Richard Nixon, while Reagan was Governor of California, he clearly refers to African Americans as monkeys. Later on, in both his failed 1976 campaign for the presidency as well as his successful one in 1980 he was also fond of using the racist “welfare queen” trope when trying to appeal to white conservative voters.
A republican congressman from Staten Island, New York with the unfortunate name of Grimm, threatened to throw a reporter over a balcony in the state capitol displeased as he was with the reporter’s coverage of him. Less than a year later, a Montana congressman body slammed a reporter for The Guardian. The very next day the President of the United States praised such actions at one of his rallies. Words can actually hurt you when sticks and stones and body slams soon follow.
The Westboro Baptist Church, a religious group purporting to be spreading the word of the lord, has a URL that literally reads godhatesfags. And they do not discriminate in their hate. They have also carried signs reading Thank god for dead soldiers, and God blew up the troops, Thank god for 911, and God hates America to the funerals of fallen service members . Not to be outdone the Reverend Louis Farrakhan has called Jews satanic while accusing them of infecting the whole world with poison and deceit. This is what increasingly passes as the word of the lord today.
And then there’s Alex Jones, who fortunately for everyone’s sake is currently spending a lot of time and money hiring barristers and losing court cases as well as distribution outlets. Mr. Jones has called the Sandy Hook massacre a hoax, maintained that the Las Vegas shooting was some kind of conspiracy between “deep state” allies and Islamic terrorists, made undocumented claims of millions of illegal votes cast in the 2016 presidential election, accused refugees of bringing crime and tuberculosis to Twin Falls, Idaho, claimed Chobani yogurt was importing migrant rapists into this country, disseminated fake news stories from Russian bots and called on his followers to “get their battle rifles ready against antifa, the mainstream media”, and fomenting enough angst among people looking for someone else to blame that a rumor he advanced over his personal media apparatus Infowars regarding a pedophile operation out of a DC pizza joint resulted in a rifle being brought to and fired at the restaurant. Fortunately, no one was hurt.
At a recent conference of supporters for the president, at his Mar a Lago resort no less, a video was showcased which depicted a faked image of the president walking into a church referred to as The Church of Fake News. Logos of “enemies” of this administration are placed over the faces of individuals as the presidential image proceeds to shoot, stab and generally slaughter anyone in site . When the carnage is complete he smiles upon his handiwork. His victims include Black Lives Matter, Vice News, CNN, MSNBC, The Hill, Politico, John McCain, Rosie O’Donnell, Rachel Maddow, Harvey Weinstein, Rep. Maxine Waters, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Mitt Romney, Barack Obama, Mika Brzezinski, Bill Clinton, Rep. Adam Schiff, and of course Hillary Clinton. James Comey is pictured as trying to escape.
Right on cue representatives of the President and his campaign pleaded ignorance of the video. They don’t deny it was played (they couldn’t- someone videotaped it. With a cell phone. Duh! ) Apparently parts of the same video have been posted on Youtube since 2018, with nary a comment or disavowal from the campaign. Listed conference speakers included Donald Trump Jr. and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Former Press Secretary and current Fox News personality Sarah Sanders also attended a prayer breakfast. Spokespeople for the organizer of the event, American Priority, said it was part of a “meme exhibit”. While they denounced the video, they failed to explain how such a vile thing could find its way into any kind of queue for the event.
That a campaign so saturated in dishonesty, racism and avarice exhibited exactly zero editorial control of this type of messaging is not a surprise. What is most disturbing is that what once would have left most Americans aghast has become so common and even excusable to some. If our political leaders can call for violence against their political enemies, if our religious and moral leaders can demonize whole segments of the population for the crime of not believing as they do, if outlets that are perceived as media can make up whole cloth lies with impunity lacking any documentation while aiming to divide the country in fear and loathing, then exactly what lessons are today’s seven and eight year old’s learning about truth, justice and the American way? And is there enough Ivory soap on the market to correct our current course?