Saturday Soapbox: Bad Words (and Rush Limbaugh)

Ed. note: I was planning on a more lighthearted piece for my first blog post, but then I read the story about Rush Limbaugh calling Michelle Obama "uppity" and, well....

If we are judged at the end of our lives by our manners, I'm afraid that way too many of us are going to be in big trouble.

When we use manners, my southern mother taught me, we are showing respect to our fellow man. Manners are used to convey consideration and cooperation, and ease uncomfortable or unknown social situations. And, as humans can be cantankerous, opinionated and downright bull-headed, being able to diffuse tension with consideration is a good thing.
For example, I'm using my manners when I don't say that Rush Limbaugh is a disgusting racist pig who spouts and sputters bullmalarkey about patriotism and decency when he wouldn't know decent if it hauled up and shook his sweaty muckracking hand.
Instead, I say that surely Mr. Limbaugh was caught up in the moment, and perhaps under the influence of advertisers and special interest groups that pay his mortgage, when he called the First Lady of the United States of America "uppity."
I might even add that perhaps Mr. Limbaugh's mama didn't wash his mouth out with soap often enough when he was growing up.
Manners, let me be clear, should never be used as an reason to repress our constitutional right to free speech. Just as there is a ban on yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater when there is none, so should we not use free speech as an excuse to be hateful.
More and more, we seem to be allowing public figures to make terrible and untrue comments without recourse.
Mr. Limbaugh's lack of manners scares me. His words are incendiary; he shouts his flaming words of hate across the airways to listeners he has already sprinkled with gas.

***
I like to think that politically most of us are fairly moderate. Middle-of-the-road. Center-right or center-left a wee bit but, generally speaking, we share common ideals and aspirations.
When we don't share the same beliefs, however, it is manners that keeps us from whacking each other over the heads with newspapers. Or getting into a shouting match in publlc. Or calling people names.
Like uppity.
Uppity is a nasty word. It's a word filled with 150 years of silent (and not so silent) and embittered racism by those who believe skin color is the first deciding factor of personhood. It's a word that embodies bitterness and ignorance and anyone who uses it on a national radio talk show is appealing to the basest part of a small segment of our society.
Anyone who grew up in the South- or read Harriet Tubman, for that matter- knows that uppity has a distinctive, racial meaning. Politicians and talk-show hosts who use the word and then profess any innocence ("I never meant it that way.") are simply trying to weasel out of being taken to task.
Certain words, when used in a specific context, have a racist meaning. Here are just a few words that are derogatory and racist when used as to describe any African-American:
Shine. Spade. Boy. Cocoa. Monkey. Buck. Spook. Macaca.
Uppity.
Calling a black woman uppity is inexcusable. Calling the First Lady uppity is something I never imagined would happen in my America.
It's hateful and rude and appalling and we should be collectively ashamed of ourselves for allowing the discourse in our country to disintegrate to the point where that type of racial stereotyping is tolerated.

Whatever your political leanings, Michelle Obama should be treated with respect, and not because she is the wife of theĀ  President.

She deserves respect because she shares in this community we call our country. She deserves to be treated with respect and politeness, as do we all.

Rush Limbaugh, I suspect, believes this to be true- as long as you agree with him.

Which is where manners come in........

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  • I agree with your points concerning manners because I, too, was reared in the South. My family moved to SC from NY, in 1951, when I was four years old. I had to learn how to fight early because when I started school I was known as the Damn Yankee that needed to be taught a lesson by the older and bigger Southern bullies of the day, no matter how often I used my manners.

    Regarding Mr. Limbaugh, he would agree with you that he says things to tweak the media and the Left - in fact, he revels in his ability to do so. It's too bad you weren't blogging when President Bush was in office. I would have been eager to read your responses to the statements from the Left, even from members of Congress and Al Gore, who repeatedly called Bush a liar and worse, and stated that his murder would be celebrated.

    I'll forgive "uppity" over the vitriol spewed constantly from the Left about Conservative politicians any day.

    Regarding the Obamas, in SC there used to be another term to describe their personal spendthrift behavior with our money which I won't use in the interest of "politeness."

    I tell my friends not to be too hard on them. They're just trying to squeeze eight years of golf, fun, and vacations into four...and with good reason.

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    As I've grown older, I've come to realize that the hardest part about taking a position is not only acting upon it but applying it equally. I'd be the first to admit that each party is prone to name-calling and vitriol.

    None of us, regardless of political persuasion, should be exempt from thinking before they speak, and of understanding the repercussions of the words they use.

    The excuse of "well, they did it, too" is just that- an excuse. It's hard to have any credibility when you continue to take the low road. There is nothing to be done about the past, but we can do something about the future, and try harder to keep our discussions to issues and actions, not personalities and personal biases.

    It's hard, and I'm the first one to admit that I have a sharp tongue (and pen). But I am trying, and that's what I ask of those in the public eye.

    But we will have to differ on the issue of forgiving the use of the word 'uppity'. I will not brush off today's racism with the excuse that someone else said or did worse in the past.

  • In reply to Lucy Lloyd:

    Your "polite" and righteous response to my comment gives moral equivalency to calling for someone's murder to a word that is not politically correct. Really?

    I have watched my ninety year-old, blue-haired, wheelchair-bound mother be selected for random full body searches at airports while young Muslim men in turbans glided past security - all in the name of political correctness.

    We mustn't profile. That would be wrong.

    Ever since the FBI took away Norm Minetta's baseball bat when he was a child during WWII, he has held a grudge against the USA. How better than to join the "enemy" and make its citizens pay for your personal pain.

    We are now a nation of dependent thinkers who would rather die than be labeled politically incorrect. You seem to be a card-carrying member of that liberal camp.

    So what if someone calls a black person uppity? I live in Puerto Rico. Now I'm called the Irish Gringo. Previously I was the Damn Yankee. Do you think that bothers me? Does it destroy my confidence in me?

    If "uppity" hurts your feelings, are your feelings the most important thing you have to blog about, all things considered?

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    Lucy Lloyd

    Writer, reporter, researcher, hockey mom. I'm an inveterate reader, relentlessly curious, and rarely without an opinion. I want to know the rest of the story and then I have to write it down. So I do.

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