Today’s Phrase for Latin Lovers

Rex in Regno suo superiores habet Deum et Legem.

The King in his Realm hath two superiors: God and the Law. -- Henry Care (1646-1688) on English liberties and the Magna Carta


Visit Prudy's Latin Lovers Store for textbooks, readers and fun Latin miscellany!

Support this site. Buy a book.*

@PruPaine Tweets

Ancient History

|English Class | Prudence Potpourri

The Foul-Mouthed Obamas

It’s one thing when your Vice President gets caught calling something a “big f***ing deal” on an open microphone. It’s another when the leader of the free world, a role model to school children around the country, repeats it himself. If he had any shame about that, his campaign would not have used it yet again in a tweet (sent under @BarackObama’s name to 17 million followers—including underage ones) and then used the BFD acronym on his official campaign clothing. (Shame on the National Republican Congressional Committee’s BFTax spoof of it. Can we expect no higher from anyone in Washington?)

Yet it doesn’t stop there. Last week, Barack Obama’s campaign chairman sent out a fundraising email with the subject line of “Let’s win the damn election.” Damn? Damn election? Is that vulgarity necessary? Does the Obama campaign believe that the use of coarse language will turn an unsuccessful plea into a successful one?

And then there’s Patrick Gaspard, the executive director of the Democratic National Committee, tweeting, “it’s constitutional. Bitches.”

All this has been well reported of late, but it struck me hard this weekend when I was reading two different books about the Obamas. I was surprised to find it’s not just their subordinates that talk like sailors.

In the first, The Amateur, the author Edward Klein quotes a Chicago television reporter, Charles Thomas, who was speaking with Michelle Obama in the station’s green room moments before they were to do an on-air interview:

“…I asked, ‘Michelle, how are the kids? We want to talk to you about the Time magazine piece.’ And she rose up out of her chair. She’s a lot taller than I am. And she put her hand on her hip and glared down at me. Waving her forefinger at me, she said, ‘Charles, don’t you try that shit with me or I’ll walk out of here!”

That came to me as a surprise that she would use such language so casually.

Then as I was later reading Barack Obama’s Dreams From My Father, the same sort of thing arose in the very first scene on the first page of Chapter 1:

When the weather was good, my roommate and I might sit out on the fire escape to smoke cigarettes and study the dusk washing blue over the city, or watch white people from the better neighborhoods nearby walk their dogs down our block to let the animals shit on our curbs—“Scoop the poop, you bastards!” my roommate would shout with impressive rage, and we’d laugh at the faces of both master and beast, grim and unapologetic as they hunkered down to do the deed.

I enjoyed such moments—but only in brief. If the talk began to wander, or cross the border into familiarity, I would soon find reason to excuse myself.

Wow. The sentiments expressed there, so full of anger and racism, and premised on a racist, class-warfare lie: no rich white New Yorker is gonna walk their dog from a cushy neighborhood to some crime-ridden one with barking dobermans so that their dog can take a poop. And yet in this bizarre fantasy world Obama has constructed, he and his roommate seething with “impressive rage” get to force white people to pick up excrement. This is who we elected President of the United States?

So I guess I should stop being surprised at the filthy language coming out of the Obama campaign. Apparently it just rolls naturally off the tongues, and pens, of everyone there, from top to bottom. We’ve known that they are deficient in sound American ideas to govern the country; apparently they are also deficient in the level of vocabulary used to communicate outside of a saloon.