I’ve been known to drop the F-bomb and, from experience, can attest to its abysmal failure to produce any positive results, unless you count the sympathy of a like-minded audience. The past few days, I’ve seen Trump backers citing Robert Di Nero’s f*ck Trump tirade as an illustration of how liberals look down on conservatives.
Maybe you wouldn’t interpret the actor’s Tony Awards speech that way at all. Perhaps you applauded. But, the fact remains that it failed to persuade anyone who doesn’t already dislike Trump to consider that the president might be ineffectual, corrupt, inept, … fill in the negative blank. I live in Texas and a Republican congressional candidate I am voting for (and already did in the primary and primary runoff) put it this way:
“If the far left doubles down on this type of stuff, then they will continue to lose. Make your argument using facts and reason, not anger and vulgarity.” – Dan Crenshaw, Republican candidate for U.S. Congress, 2nd District of Texas (Houston area).
I wholeheartedly agree. Yet, ironically, the notion that civility is required to advance a political position has one striking exception: Donald Trump. That doesn’t mean anyone of any political stripe should strive to emulate him. Years ago, I attended a session at a journalism conference about how to deal with recalcitrant subjects. A reporter in the audience related to the speaker, a retired FBI agent, how a town official was belligerent with the press and anyone who questioned him, whether a constituent or another official. The advice was sage: never yell back at a shouter; they’ve been doing it their whole life and will be better at it.
This morning, I watched a video clip of Rep. Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat who currently is a congressman serving the 16th District of Texas. He is running for Senate against Republican incumbent Ted Cruz. The video was posted by Save the Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge. As a backer of wildlife conservation, I do have questions about how an expanded border wall will harm wildlife. So, I watched the video, as a Texas voter. He lost me at the F-word.
He started with his point of view about immigration, which was completely sympathetic toward people who have crossed the border on an illegal basis. He also noted Mexico is one of our closest trading partners. I pondered what he was saying. I am pro-free trade, but do not think that gives Mexico a free pass on what appears to be allowing unfettered access to the U.S. border via The Beast, etc., or on its drug wars and trade. And while I do not believe that the policy of separating children and parents is working as a deterrent to international trade, the continual flow of illegal immigrants needs to slow down.
O’Rourke seemed to contradict himself, on one hand citing record-low apprehensions of illegal immigrants and then saying as the number of people trying to cross increases, the number of people who are dying in their effort increases. Nonetheless, I continued to listen because this issue is important in Texas and the U.S. at large, and I like to hear different perspectives.
Then he spoke of families detained and separated from children in McAllen and elsewhere on the border. He recalled, in 1939, a ship of German Jews seeking refuge in the United States was sent back to Europe. Coming back to current events and concerns, he said the reason people serve and seek action is “because we want to f*cking do something and if there was ever a moment for us do something, it is at this moment right now.” Errr, OK. People have likened this politician to John F. Kennedy. Well, JFK did not talk about “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can f*cking do for your country.”
Needlessly dropping the F-bomb into a serious policy discussion cheapens whatever point you wanted to convey. It’s just not an effective word to deploy when trying to persuade anyone who isn’t already in complete agreement with you. It’s the crude equivalent to “can I get an amen” and the crowd roaring back with “f*ck yeah!” How does that really advance a cause beyond its existing adherents?
The F-bomb falls flat in any effort to persuade a broader audience or compel others to your side. O’Rourke, who is behind Cruz in the polls, would need to win votes from independents and Republicans who aren’t fans of Cruz. I submit he drop the salty language in his quest for a Senate seat. If the Senate is to remain “the greatest deliberative body in the world,” we will need continued discernment, fact-finding, oversight and good policymaking. That won’t happen with a barrage of f-bombs.
Always strive to find the best words for the job at hand, especially if you are selling a position in the great marketplace of ideas.