What’s worse, the ob­scen­ity or the over­wrought re­ac­tion?

The Idaho Statesman (Sunday) - - OPINION - BY LEONARD PITTS JR. Mi­ami Her­ald

As a gen­eral rule, I don’t curse a lot.

I’ve found that I can usu­ally ex­press my­self ef­fec­tively enough with­out it. And it’s al­ways seemed to me that foul lan­guage, used ubiq­ui­tously, loses its pri­mary value, i.e., its abil­ity to shock or to state a thing with force. How se­ri­ously should any­one take the F-bomb you drop af­ter be­ing passed over for pro­mo­tion when you are also known to drop Fbombs be­cause the store runs out of Frosted Flakes?

I know this places me out­side the norms and mores of this era that, where lan­guage is con­cerned, is some­thing of a free-fire zone. And that’s fine. I just wanted to con­tex­tu­al­ize my re­sponse to last week’s ex­u­ber­ant vow from newly sworn Rep. Rashida Tlaib. In case you missed it, she promised to “im­peach the mother------,” Mean­ing, of course, Don­ald Trump.

Those words have made her the lat­est dar­ling of the po­lit­i­cal left; in­deed, you can al­ready buy Tshirts em­bla­zoned with her bat­tle cry. But from where I sit, Tlaib is just the lat­est in a lam­en­ta­ble and bi­par­ti­san line of po­lit­i­cal lead­ers drop­ping ver­bal lit­ter into the pub­lic square. I am old-fash­ioned enough to re­gret the coars­en­ing of our po­lit­i­cal di­a­logue and to believe the priv­i­lege of pub­lic of­fice ob­li­gates one to speak to our bet­ter an­gels, not our worst.

That said, I’m less vexed by Tlaib’s words than by the right-wing re­sponse thereto. Many Repub­li­cans seem to have caught the va­pors at be­ing sub­jected to such an un­gen­tle ex­pres­sion. You had Deputy Press Sec­re­tary Ho­gan Gi­d­ley la­ment­ing her “nasty, ridicu­lous, out­ra­geous rhetoric.” You had Rep. Kevin Mccarthy chid­ing Democrats for “foul lan­guage.” And did Don­ald Trump (!) re­ally call Tlaib’s state­ment “dis­grace­ful”?

Lord, give me strength.

For any Trump acolyte, much less the so-called pres­i­dent him­self, to de­ride any­one for say­ing a bad word is an act of hypocrisy truly Brob­d­ing­na­gian in scale. Trump, af­ter all, has been a ver­i­ta­ble Ve­su­vius of in­vec­tive and in­sult from the day he first oozed onto the po­lit­i­cal scene.

More­over, Repub­li­cans might want to look in the mir­ror be­fore they com­plain about any­thing be­ing ob­scene. The word is de­fined by Mer­ri­amweb­ster as that which is “ab­hor­rent to moral­ity or virtue.” And that might as well be the of­fi­cial slo­gan of the Grand Old Party.

Be­cause ob­scen­ity is not just a set of words. It is also a set of at­ti­tudes and ac­tions.

As a di­rect re­sult of GOP at­ti­tudes and ac­tions, we live in a coun­try where pro­grams to feed the hun­gry face deep cuts while we give tax breaks to bil­lion­aires, im­mi­grant chil­dren are snatched from their fam­i­lies and lost in a labyrinthine sys­tem, vot­ing rights are stolen from vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple, the gov­ern­ment watches supinely as the planet over­heats and men­tally de­ranged peo­ple pur­chase as­sault weapons while chil­dren as young as preschool age prac­tice ac­tive-shooter drills.

But we should be out­raged at the bad word a lit­tle known con­gress­woman said? No.

In their at­ti­tudes and ac­tions, Repub­li­cans rou­tinely curse the Con­sti­tu­tion, pro­fane Amer­ica’s ideals and vi­tu­per­ate its val­ues.

Email Leonard Pitts Jr. at [email protected]­ami­her­ald.com.

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