June 11, 2010

THE HOMAGE VICE PAYS TO VIRTUE:

The President Said What, Now?: President Obama is probably the last guy you’d think would introduce “ass” into the mainstream political discourse. It’s like Spock barking that he's ready to “knock boots" with the Klingons. (James Lileks, 6/11/10, PJM)

The gross reductive identification of race with gangster culture is permitted for Mr. Maher, since he holds approved views on a variety of other issues, just as Helen Thomas’ nasty spews were okay because she was a Trailblazing Doyenne who had the correct ideas about tax rates and war and premature extraction of fetuses from the womb. But at the heart of Maher’s image of authentic blackness is part of the leftist creed: the trivial niceties of civilization are a barrier to the most important goal of human endeavor, self-expression. Lenny died for your sins. The hero isn’t the man who invents the traffic signal, it’s Ratso Rizzo who crosses against the light, bangs on a hood of a car that dares to nose into the intersection, and yells “I’m walkin’ here!”

One can make too much of these things — something I hope to be proving before your very eyes — and one must admit there are precedents. Churchill’s “V” was something of a vulgarism — up yours Adolf, was how people read the gesture. (He didn’t know the extra meaning, some allege.) Bush the Elder employed the A-word in a post-game wrap-up of his Ferraro debate; speaking to longshoremen, he said he “tried to kick a little ass” the previous night, and it came off as wincingly inauthentic, like a preppy attempting a soul-brother handshake. For all we know Bush was a cusser supreme, but his image was such that you imagined him saying “Oh golly gumdrops heck it all!” when his plane was shot down. Privately, Clinton was probably a blue-streak man; Bush the Latter, for all his piety, seemed like a fellow who’d rip out a tart Texas cuss. Cheney, we know, could bark out an effenheimer if the moment called for it.

But the key word is “privately,” and here’s where the sophomoric charge of hypocrisy comes in. If someone swears in private but sticks to mild oaths in public, they’re a hypocrite, and that makes some people channel their Holden Caulfield: phony! So when the president finally let some steam leak out from his exquisitely calibrated first-class temperament, he was being real. He was being authentic.

Even then, it seemed utterly false.


In defense of the UR, I swear a lot at work too, so I get it out of my system since we don't swear in front of the kids. Then again, our jobs differ....

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 11, 2010 6:04 AM
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