Monday, July 17, 2006

The shit heard 'round the world

An open mike at a G8 Summit luncheon caught President Bush peppering his conversation with some salty language, suggesting that the mess in the Middle East is getting poopy.

"See the irony is that what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit and it's over," Bush told British PM Tony Blair as he chomped on a roll.

Of course, the news media is all over Bush's language, sorta like your little sister when she tattles, "Mommy, Ronnie said the F-word!"

Personally, I'm glad the president -- in his language anyway -- proves not to be the stodgy, prudish Baptist prig that he wants the Moral Majority to think he is. In private, most of us use profane language that we'd would never use in a major speech at the Tuesday Rotary meeting, much less the State of the Union address. I confess to using much stronger language regarding Hezbollah than "shit" ... and they are usually deliciously compound profanities, blending juicier and poly-syllabic obscenities. I am able to turn the air around me an acidic blue. It's a gift.

Without a doubt, the Radical Left will act horrified and say it proves our Republican president is unstatesmanlike, even though you gotta believe that President Clinton probably didn't get Oval Office, um, perks without expressing a few comely expletives. And then there's Harry Truman ... a Democrat to whom, ironically, George W. Bush often compares himself. But most of my Leftist friends have been complaining for years that "Bush never says shit." Now he has.

And the Radical Right, especially in the Bible Belt, will probably find some passage in the Bible where Jesus warned that "thou shalt not speak with a potty mouth" or somesuch.

Remember when "crap" was a cuss word? Now it's not just OK for prime-time TV, it's a regular line on some of the best shows, like "Everybody Loves Raymond." As with any word, overuse and misuse are generally the problem, fer crap sakes.

Now, I'm not for a cultural Tourette's Syndrome, where vile words spill out freely at the most inappropriate times, like my annual job review. I've sometimes blurted out some blistering epithets, and I've generally had the good grace to know I fu ... messed up. The trick is knowing exactly when to drop the F-bomb, or the MF-Scud, or the CS-Katyusha to hit the target precisely.

I'm a writer. I writhe, revel and bathe in words. I love them. I use them all. I don't think there's any such thing as a bad word. Sometimes civil language simply doesn't make the point. My use -- or the president's use -- of a colorful word or phrase isn't always evidence of ignorance or an underdeveloped vocabulary; it often means I've chosen a word for its precise meaning and effect. Profanity often allows for a much more passionate expression. A cuss word is like a verbal exclamation point.

So the president said "shit." Get over it, dammit.


Anonymous said...

candor like that shows conviction. Personally, the Shuttle landing is cooler.

theWatchList said...

Thanks for the comments you left on my post today. I couldn't agree more.

From blogger TheWatchList at

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Craptastic (pronunciation: ‘krap-‘tas-tik)
Function: adjective
1 a: based on crap: shittiness b: conceived or seemingly conceived by unrestrained stupidity c: exceedingly disappointing
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Got any fun slang terms you'd like to share... Comment with the word, a short definition, and if your really nice maybe a sentence showing proper use.

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SingingSkies said...

Didn't you know? Presidents and pastors aren't allowed to use language like that, at least, not in public. I agree that a well-placed, infrequent expletive can be helpful in emphasizing the importance of a particular topic. Context is everything!

Michael Gillespie said...

It's been my observation, and my experience, that profanity almost always signals a failure of some kind. Most often foul language signals a flash of anger, fear, hate, or some other negative attitude and emotion. This appears to be true whether the speaker is one who generally eschews such language or one who curses more or less habitually.

I write as one who used to curse habitually. Since a life-threatening and life-changing experience some 24 years ago significantly enhanced my practical interest in and awareness of that creative spirit that most of us refer to by one or another of the various names of God, I've come to notice that when I am spiritually fit, when I am physically healthy, and when I am unafraid, I very rarely find it necessary to utter a profanity. And when I am angry, physically unhealthy, or feel threatened and become fearful, I am far more likely to resort to foul language. I've also noticed that as my vocabulary has expanded and I've become better able to express my thoughts clearly, I am less inclined to resort to crude expressions. Because I love the English language and delight in expressing myself effectively, I almost always perceive as something of an intellectual and a moral failure my own use of, for instance, any of the words that made comedian George Carlin rich.

Of course there are times when life deals us any of a wide range surprising, unpleasant, alarming, and disconcerting experiences that may elicit an involuntary exclamation of foul language. Chance to slam the door on your finger, become embroiled in an argument, or turn on your TV set one sunny Tuesday morning in September as an airliner slides into the World Trade Center, and there's no telling what words may escape your lips. My wife tells me she has learned that one of our neighbors, a good friend who I've never heard curse, recently took a chain saw to the living room couch while delivering a string of profanities in the direction of his now estranged wife. Life ain't easy. But I've never known profanity to be a truly enriching element of the human experience.

There are, of course, "stodgy, prudish, Baptist prig[s]", and stodgy, prudish prigs of other religious persuasions too, who refrain from using foul language while at the same time treating other people like, well, something other than loved and respected brothers and sisters. Spin-meisters, slick ad campaigns, and the public pronouncements of leaders habitually selling themselves and touting religious, political, social, and financial agendas described by high-sounding platitudes and seeming sincere rhetoic intended primarily to obscure distinctly profane motives have become the rule rather than the exception. To react by screaming profanities at the TV set may be momentarily satisfying, but it is not, and will never be, an effective response to smiling, self-satisfied, manipulative leaders who adorn themselves with diamonds and gold but who somehow can't really enjoy the feast unless they can blame and discreetly curse the hungry and the oppressed.

Jesus is reported to have said, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God" (Matthew 19:23-24). Perhaps we each have some pet evil, such as love of wealth or unregulated self-expression, that entrance into the kingdom of heaven requires as part of the price of admission. It's not wealth as such that is the problem, but the love of wealth, not the irreverence of profane language per se but the habitual and arrogant lack of respect for others and the indifference to legitimate authority that it so often represents.

I guess I've seen enough of this world to know that I want to see another, which is to say I've been disabused of the notion that God will drag me kicking, screaming, and cursing through the metaphorical pearly gates on judgment day.

Ron Franscell said...

Good to see you back, Michael!

Anonymous said...

Cussing at the TV or the lawnmower or al Qaida might not actually solve anything all by itself, but neither does serenely accepting their shortcomings. It's not the cussing or the lack of it that makes the difference, but how we respond in action AFTER the cussing.

spudzine said...

well, shit.