F*ck yeah! — profanity and politics

Warning: This blog contains profanity, like the “ph-word”—phooey—and its descendant, the more straightforward “f-word.”

When my mother was a kid, back in the first half of the 20th century, she and her schoolgirl friends used to camouflage their curses with Latin. Latin? They conjugated the verb “to be”: “Sum, esse, PHOOEY!!! futurus.” You can almost hear Cicero rolling in his grave.

Nobody camouflages curses these days. Nope, they’re right out there, front and center, a routine part of what used to pass for political discourse.

“Vulgarity,” my parents would have called it. And no one can dispute that an exceedingly vulgar man sits in the highest office in the land. But I’m not just talking about the “p***y-grabber-in-chief.” Apparently the Chair of the Democratic National Committee, Tom Perez, has thrown the s-word around at public rallies several times recently. And I don’t mean my mother’s s-word: “SHHHHHH-UGAR!”

Even Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has dropped the f-bomb:

“If we’re not helping people, we should go the fuck home.”

CNN commentator Mel Robbins asks an excellent question with the headline of her piece this week:

“Why the f*** are you talking s*** with kids in the room?”

Profanity works

Robbins offers an explanation (or justification) for all this salty talk. Apparently it works.

A team of researchers from the United States, Netherlands, the UK and Hong Kong found that people who use profanity are less likely to be associated by others with lying and deception.”

Still more research finds that we process most language on the left side of our brain, swear words get shuttled over to the limbic system, where we process emotions. The emotional connection makes you sound less scripted, more trustworthy. And these days politicians will do anything possible to seem more trustworthy. Shit, even the ones who are trustworthy seem shady.

Robbins paints a world that would be completely unrecognizable to my parents. I have to say, it’s even inconceivable to me:

“Now that we’ve stepped into the Swear Zone, there’s no turning back. Indeed, when Gillibrand dropped the f-bomb, people actually floated the theory that she’s swearing because she’s gearing up for a presidential run.”

Would I like to see Gillibrand explore a presidential run? Fuck yeah. But I would also love to return to a time when leaders also modeled class and decorum. I say “Sum, esse, PHOOEY!!! futurus” to the profanity of the Trump era.

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