There were two firsts in the NYT of Jan 5, 2019. One was the pronouncement by new congressperson Rashida Tlaib (D Mich) to her young son who congratulated her on her victory by saying, “Momma, look you won. Bullies don’t win” to which she responded, “Baby, they don’t. Because we’re going to go in there, and we’re going to impeach the motherf—er.” The other was the fact that the word was spelled out completely, something I had never seen in the Times. I googled to see whether that had happened before but came up short with references only to the Times’ squeamishness about printing the word and numerous examples of what permutations they used to avoid it.
Several thoughts occurred to me. Would they have done so if it was used to refer to Obama? to Lewis Farrakhan? Would they even have printed the “n” word to refer to those two? The answer to those questions is obvious - they would not have printed motherf—er in reference to anyone but the man who gets trashed in their pages every day. The picture that accompanies the article shows the congressperson smiling as she is sworn in to office with the American flag behind her and her young son in front of her - the boy looks like he is under 10. I don’t know any educated mothers who teach their children to refer to people with that word, especially not when it’s a person holding the highest office in our country. I hope that her son would be seriously reprimanded at school for referring to his teacher or principal that way; if this is the congressperson’s judgment when it comes to dealing with the son she loves, what might we expect when she must talk with adversaries?
Rashida was fortunate to have been born in this country of free speech and on occasion, to have been the recipient of government welfare to her family of 14 children while she was growing up. As a Muslim woman, she was able to go to college and Law School and be elected to the legislature of her state and her country. Regardless of how she feels about our current president, he has been duly elected and the least that can be expected from other elected officials is respect for the office of president, if not its occupant. The example that she sets for her children does not bode well for her civility in dealing with political antagonists, something borne out by the map in her office displaying the word Palestine where Israel is located.
The NYTimes regularly refers to the Trump rhetoric, blaming that for the increasing divisiveness in our country No Republican was ever quoted in the press of in the media referring to a Democrat president with that word and I can’t think of another politician who would refuse to apologize if their insult became front page news. Lately, people have resigned from both public and private sector jobs for less. Who would have guessed that a single 12 letter word printed in the newspaper of record could push the level of discourse to a new low - a debasement as damaging to our culture as the unrestrained person who was quoted.
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