By Jack Engelhard
First time I saw him on TV, I thought this must be some foul-mouthed rap artist. But no, this SOB is governor of Illinois. (See? It’s catching.)
We can’t seem to stop ourselves from electing the lowest among us to the highest offices. Or maybe that’s the best the pool has to offer; this dirt bag over another dirt-bag.
What I said some time ago still stands – the way we speak reflects our character. No wonder our culture is in decline – from dastardly language to dastardly deeds. If it’s true that we’re falling apart economically, politically and culturally, that only makes my point that everything begins with language.
Is there anybody around these days to write us something like Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address? Hell, no.
Or put it like this, damn it, our nation is being run by dirty rotten scoundrels, one state at a time. I’ll admit that if you were to tape me around the house you’d catch me with a four-letter word now and then – but I am no governor, or senator, or even president. I don’t run your world like these people do.
Remember Richard Nixon? Those tapes proved him using language to make a sailor blush. Wait a minute. I forgot to mention Blagojevich’s wife. She’s also been taped and her dirty talk equals her husband’s. There was a time when women never swore, but that takes us back to the Eisenhower years, the days of Ozzie and Harriet when “aw shucks” was pretty much the limit.
Even “darn” was barely acceptable. “Damn” really crossed the line and Hollywood had to do cartwheels to permit Clark Gable to utter that line. Frankly, my dear, it’s happening all over the place and I keep trying to pin the date when nearly all of us began using dirt talk. Maybe it began with all that rapping, when what used to be the fair sex descended into “hos.”
Before all that we had to watch ourselves against locker-room banter because “there are ladies present.” Jack Benny is still credited with the longest laugh ever in the world of broadcasting. That’s when a mugger demanded his money or his life, and for the longest time, he said nothing. People howled – proof that clean talk can be funny and that silence is even better.
I guess, though – once again we can blame it all on my generation, the generation of the 1960s. That’s when we decided to rise up against the Establishment and “express ourselves.” Women burned their bras as an “expression” of freedom and further liberated themselves by frequent use of the F-word. Guys always used the F-Word, but never around children or the ladies, certainly never within any governor’s mansion – never thinking that one day, like today, the ladies would join us in cussing up a storm.
Our form of rebellion, in addition to rioting on campus, was to wear our caps backwards. That’s how we told the world to go bleep itself, and maybe that’s when we started going to hell in a hand-basket. (Whatever that means.) If I were governor, I wouldn’t use the euphemism “bleep.” I use “bleep” only because this is a family newspaper and there are ladies present.
Maybe it all began with Lenny Bruce and his Seven Forbidden Words, which, of course, I cannot repeat, but he did, in Greenwich Village. He could never use those words on television, not then – but today? Are you kidding? Check out those comedians on HBO as a measure of how far we’ve gone up or down; depending on how you define progress.
Or maybe it began with Bill Clinton when his dirty laundry was exposed on television, within the eyes and ears of even six-year-olds.
In case you think I’m picking on Democrats, wrong. We can all use some soap to wash out our mouths. Civility is always a good place to start, damn it!
About the author: Jack Engelhard’s latest novel THE BATHSHEBA DEADLINE, now in paperback, places journalism at the center of our politics, culture and war on terrorism. Engelhard wrote the international bestselling novel INDECENT PROPOSAL that was translated into more than 22 languages and turned into a Paramount motion picture starring Robert Redford and Demi Moore. His can be reached at his website www.jackengelhard.com.