Sunday, July 30, 2017

The obscene present participle



   
     It's the rarity, I suppose, that gives swearing its power. If every other word is "fuck"—as is the case with our new White House director communications director, Anthony Scaramucci—the words lose their sting, at least somewhat.
     Or so we can hope. Scaramucci, for those reading this in 2027, burst into public awareness late last week with an obscenity-laced tirade to New Yorker writer Ryan Lizza.
     It was shocking, considering he was the man newly hired to put a happy public face on the ongoing train wreck disaster that is the Donald Trump administration. 

     Lizza's Thursday post pinballed across Facebook—that's where I read it. Though that still didn't prepare me for Friday's New York Times where, on page A20, Scaramucci's words were printed without the squeamish dashes that other newspapers quaintly employed.
    (The Sun-Times, I'm sorry to say, couldn't even bring itself to use squeamish dashes; merely mentioning the Mooch spoke "in language more suitable to a mobster movie than a seat of presidential stability" without even hinting what those "graphic terms" might be). 
     Does it matter? I suppose not in the long term, our-country-sliding-into-the-shitter big picture. Did many people sincerely tremble to read the obscene present participle itself (sigh, a present participle is a verb ending in "ing" used as an adjective, such as "Reince is a fucking paranoid schizophrenic" though I suppose, since Scaramucci is not literally commenting on Preibus' sexual activities, it probably should be considered an intensifier rather than a present participle).
      I would argue that Scaramucci's exact expressions are important as reminders—as if any are necessary, and they are—of just who we elected. A crude liar, cruel bully and perpetual fraud. Though in terms of last week's explosions—the Senate effort to scuttle health care for 30 million Americans going down in ignominious defeat, the president tweeting away the right of transgendered persons to serve in the military—the director of communication's potty mouth is a distant third. And we haven't even begun to consider that the new chief of staff is a retired general.
     My moment with the Times reminded me of when—some 20 years ago—it fell to me to edit Kenneth Starr's transcript regarding the Monica Lewinsky testimony, and, sprout that I was, I kept trotting back to the managing editor's office to explain that I was leaving in this word or that sexual act because it seemed significant and I wanted him to understand that it would be in the transcript which the paper would print and people would then read.
     The world endured. It tends to plow forward on its own momentum. The media keeps pointing out that Trump had promised to support GLBQT rights during the campaign, as if he hadn't already voided the whole idea of a "promise." Why are we acting as if something significant hasn't changed? We need to get with the program and understand the total disconnect between words the president says today and words he says tomorrow, between what he commits to doing and what he actually does. 
    An obscene word is jarring, and seeing them in print bothers some people. But comparing a few curse words to the grotesque obscenity unfolding daily in Washington, D.C., it's a trivial matter. It's like seeing your house on fire and worrying that you left the lights on. There is no question that four years of Donald Trump will leave us a lesser nation, our political discourse debased, our judgment skewed, our institutions crumbling. Though let's not blame Trump; we had to deteriorate a long time to get to such a reduced state that the man could have been elected in the first place. I can't say it too many times: he is a symptom and not a cause. We're the cause.


16 comments:

  1. I agree. This is a mess of our own making. Trump is holding court from atop a pile of rubble. Scaramucci - consigliere/hatchet-man/jester - will serve at The Donald's pleasure.

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    1. Scaramucci out after 11 days. Der Donald wasn't pleased. The pile of rubble is growing.

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  2. Excellent piece! Such a sad place to which we've descended. #embarrassedbyitall

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  3. As my teenage son often says: I give zero fucks! Let's diagram that sentence together shall we? What I mean to say is how he said it it is so much less important than what he said and the context in which he was saying it. Mr. Mooch was threatening people in the administration with arrest and prosecution for "leaking" information . He was acting as though saying who he had dinner with to the press was akin to divulging top secret information. He also doesn't understand the FOIA which made financial disclosures of his available to anyone. And he was threatening reporters with criminal and civil action . Adding to the general level of paranoia within this administration.remind you of anything?

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  4. Trump is a reflection, as well as symptom. Vain, vulgar, selfish; he's the mirror image of our selfie society.

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  5. Scaramucci and company area a disgrace all around.

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  6. As I said before, he sounded like Captain Queeg in the Caine Mutiny. Paranoic in the extreme. Except with a lot of cussing to appeal to the younger generation. Fifty odd year old man in a power position sounding like a wannabe. (Sigh)

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  7. As a little possum once famously put the sentiment expressed in Neil's closing thought, "We have seen the enemy and he is us."

    But I don't entirely buy that. I didn't stay home from the polls. Trump may be the President we deserve, but a majority did not vote for him.

    Tom

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  8. The breathtaking combination of hubris and incompetence demonstrated by this episode is what gets me. The *communications director* doesn't realize maybe he should be sure this conversation is "off the record?" And credit to Lizza for obviously having no qualms about burning that bridge to the ground right out of the gate.

    FME makes some fine points, and I gotta agree with Mr. Evans. Who's this "we" referred to in the last sentence? Certainly not most of the folks reading and/or commenting about this post.

    It's remarkable how those staid rural and small-town folks who have been railing against "coastal elites" for decades are now the 38% championing these New Yawk wheeler-dealers. You couldn't make it up.

    And surely this display of crassness will be what brings the high-minded Evangelicals to their senses about the depravity of the administration they're enabling. Right? Hahahahaha. Uh, nope.

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  9. No matter how profane and incompetent Scaramucci is, he will keep his job, because Donald Trump judges people by one and only one criterion: their loyalty to Donald Trump. Nothing else matters.

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    1. Well Bitter Scribe, this one goes down into the "Predictions, Premature" file.

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  10. More is required of us as citizens than simply voting. We need to become active in the process . Even in many of the profanely shaped districts gerrymandered to produce a specific outcome there are enough opposition votes available to defeat a candidate. Many folks don't vote .We need to be part of the effort to get these folks to the polls . If we can't go door to door ourselves then we need to contribute funds that will enable those who can to get out and do this important work. Democat, independent or Republican folks need to be encouraged to participate. Then when the results are tallied maybe something close to a majority of eligible voters will one day elect the president. It would be easier to support someone you disagree with if that were the case. Maybe

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  11. The electoral college doesn't help either.

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  12. I agree that our debased political life is our own fault.

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