When Barack Obama called Mitt Romney a bull******* in a Rolling Stone interview recently, it was reminiscent of something involving a man who truly fits that description. What I’m referring to has to do with the 1990s, an intern, and America’s increasingly interned morality.
After Bill Clinton said that he didn’t consider Monica Lewinsky’s services to be sex as he “understood it,” many observers pointed out that his lawyering of lasciviousness was influencing the young. “Hey, even the president, a Rhodes Scholar, says it isn’t sex!” It’s what you call trickle-down decadence. And now what Clinton did for intimate relations, Obama is doing for relating.
A powerful man sets a powerful example, and Obama has always been classless. Many complained last year after he invited the rapper “Common” to the White House, but forgotten is that Obama admitted in 2004 that he let his daughter Sasha — a tender three years old at the time — listen to rap. If anyone exposed my child to that cultural effluent, the rap he’d get would be in the head.
As for Obama’s bovine-excrement descriptive, it clearly was calculated to appeal to Rolling Stone’s stoner demographic, which is supposed to conclude that BO is just, like, you know … such a cool dude (I’m just the bees’ knees myself). This tactic has also brought us the new pro-Obama “First Time” campaign ad, featuring “Girls” creator Lena Dunham equating your first vote with the loss of virginity and saying, “Your first time shouldn’t be with just anybody; you wanna do it with a great guy.” Of course, looking at her, it’s clear that she wasn’t very discriminating in either sense of this double entendre.
But that’s the America that gave us Obama … and that Obama is giving us. Is our nation really a better place when little Johnny can let fly obscenities and then say, “But even the president does it”? Perhaps Obama, who claims to be a Christian and whose wife has embarked upon a pharisaic dietary crusade, ought to consider the words of Christ himself: “Not that which goes into the mouth defiles a man; but that which comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.”
Of course, few would think that, with all that’s going on, vulgarity warrants more than a passing mention. And this is just one reason why I’m going to talk about it.
While frequently issued by the Founding Fathers, calls to virtue fall largely on deaf ears today. Our society has been coarsened to the point where public displays of profanity are ever more accepted; in fact, even “conservative” websites will now sometimes use words such as a** and dumb***, and otherwise respectable news sources have generally printed Obama’s potty-mouthed description without asterisks. And when I wrote an article on this subject a while back, a seemingly conservative reader sent me an e-mail saying something to the effect of, “Not all of us working men here in real America are Little Lord Fauntleroys.” His tone was nice enough, but his message was clear: In just the way that those espousing a sexual modesty considered the norm throughout most of American history are now called “prudes,” I was to be considered a linguistic prude.
But I ask, do you like hearing a stream of vulgar words pass a child’s lips? If not, remember that virtues are caught more than they’re taught. And even though many of us would still guard our tongues when around kids physically, we forget that when using media (the Internet especially) we’re always around kids virtually: Some tender eyes will no doubt be watching.
Some will say this doesn’t really matter because children know these words, anyway. But this misses the point. Kids will learn about the birds and the bees eventually, but this doesn’t mean continual exposure to pornography will have no effect. And would children’s awareness of serial killers’ existence mean that a steady diet of snuff films was inconsequential?
So it’s one thing to allow children to know something exists — it’s quite another to normalize and legitimize it for them. Hence my use of asterisks when printing vulgar terms, which the aforementioned reader found so Fauntleroyesque. But while people know what the words are, the asterisks send a clear message that they’re not acceptable.
If this still sounds like much ado about little, note that the great thinkers of history would have disagreed. They understood that virtue is real — and it matters. As Benjamin Franklin said, “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become more corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.” And to use an Edmund Burke quotation I’ve been wearing out: “It is written in the eternal constitution of things that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.”
When you see children spouting obscenities and consider those who’ve raised and influenced them, do they strike you as men of temperate minds? When our president does the same and exerts that negative influence, does he strike you as temperate-minded?
Now, what about those who elected him?
And that is the point. Barack Obama is a classless, overgrown child playing president, but he can only game the system because of a confederacy of corrupted juveniles playing voter. Our problem isn’t that we have to change the political status of one man, which could be relatively easy. It’s that we have to change the moral status of one whole civilization.