A Straight Shot of Politics

A blog from a gentleman of the Liberal political persuasion dedicated to right reason, clear thinking, cogent argument, and the public good.

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Location: Columbus, Ohio, United States

I have returned from darkness and quiet. I used to style myself as "Joe Claus", Santa Claus’ younger brother because that is what I still look like. I wrote my heart out about liberal politics until June of 2006, when all that could be said had been said. I wrote until I could write no more and I wrote what I best liked to read when I was young and hopeful: the short familiar essays in Engish and American periodicals of 50 to 100 years ago. The archetype of them were those of G.K. Chesterton, written in newspapers and gathered into numerous small books. I am ready to write them again. I am ready to write about life as seen by the impoverished, by the mentally ill, by the thirty years and more of American Buddhist converts, and by the sharp eyed people [so few now in number] with the watcher's disease, the people who watch and watch and watch. I am all of these.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Learning How To Curse

The Anchoress has gotten very angry about a rude and obscene t-shirt directed at the Pope. He certainly doesn't deserve such treatment, and her anger is quite understandable. Of course, she has her own inimitable take on what the whole business really means:

What I am wondering about is the strange fascination the left seems to have with the F-word....Gad, I can't stand boomers. I am one, technically, but I have never liked this generation. Even back then, when I was 13, I hated this pre-occupation with "self" that is so much a part of that crowd. Even back then, at 13, I thought the Woodstock Chant was lame.

The F-word is so done, SO overplayed. But the boomers and their limited progeny can't let it go. The F-word is their calling card, their banner, their meaningless creed.

I bet if you asked the marketer of the F*** Benedict XVI shirts if he is a liberal, he would say he is, or that he is "progressive," or something. When I was growing up, raised by classically liberal parents, I was taught that being liberal meant being open-minded, allowing others to live and let live - giving everyone the benefit of the doubt, and most of all, engaging in real, meaningful discussion, not flippant blow-offs....

Well, gee.

PROSPERO: When thou didst not, savage,
Know thine own meaning, but wouldst gabble like
A thing most brutish, I endow'd thy purposes
With words that made them known.

CALIBAN: You taught me language; and my profit on't
Is, I know how to curse.
The red plague rid you
For learning me your language!

The Tempest, I, ii

To know how to curse. It is the Big Secret that no one in America really talks about, so no one learns. I learned. And learning it was one of my triumphs of literary control over my mother tongue. I learned it from literary masters like Jonathan Swift.

Most Americans are left in the dark about it because we are taught from the cradle, and in school, that we really all ought to be "making nice" to everybody whether we believe it or not.

Where does that leave all of us, boomers or others? In exactly the same place where George Orwell found so much that was compelling in the style of Henry Miller:

For the truth is that many ordinary people, perhaps an actual majority, do speak and behave in just the way that is recorded here. The callous coarseness with which the characters in Tropic of Cancer talk is very rare in fiction, but it is extremely common in real life; again and again I have heard just such conversations from people who were not even aware that they were talking coarsely.

But I really learned how to curse. I learned to hoard the words miserly, like gold nuggets, and not waste them on silly things that meant nothing. Strong words are for real emotions, not mere pique or startlement, and, particularly, not mere pique about something purely entertaining.

They should be used sparingly, and for maximum rhetorical effect. When you say them or write them, you should really mean every syllable of them, tasting every drop of bile in them, and building a full emotional head of steam before you let them explode.

A properly articulated obscenity requires a beautiful literary setting. The target of one's hatred should be built up artfully, in a baroque fantasia of language like an elaborate white wedding cake.

Then the single salty word can have the effect of blasting the white wedding cake with a sawed-off shotgun.

I was born in the 1950's. I call myself "liberal" or "progressive" interchangeably, and I mean something very precise by those words. What I mean by them is not a synonym for "making nice" to everybody. How much that makes me a part of the Anchoress' "they" on the left--who are so self-absorbed and adolescent--I'll leave to your good judgment.

But I have never lost touch with the fact that there are many places where some people have no "happily ever after" and have no future to "make nice" about anything.

Americans, generally, are not very well acquainted with the fact that such places exist, and they are usually too busy "making nice" to understand them.

One thing is certain, and it will never be learned by merely "making nice".

There are things in this world that deserve to be treated with language like the blasting of a wedding cake with a shotgun.


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