Profanity is debasing American politics

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand delivers a speech. Photo courtesy of Flickr user PersonalDemocracy.

Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.

The 2016 presidential election may have marked the downfall of the graceful, eloquent speeches American politicians used to deliver. However, our era of shoddy political rhetoric is not exclusive to either party. Of late, both Democrats and Republicans are taking the “straight shooter” and “no holds barred” approach widely popularized by President Trump. It would be unfair to say that this modern way of speech-making is ineffective; in fact, it was Trump’s ability to stir voters into supporting ideas like building a wall on the Mexican border and banning Muslim immigrants that landed him in the oval office.

Trump’s crude delivery is diffusing across several political stages. Take Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who recently “dropped three f-bombs” in a New York Magazine interview and casually tossed the word in her speech at the Personal Democracy Forum. Falling in line with this new trend of sprinkling speeches with profanity are DNC Chairman Tom Perez and Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke — both Democrats who have used colorful language to convey their frustration with the current administration.   

What happened to making one’s point with dignity and elegance? Where are the inspirational, memorable quotes relayed by compelling leaders like Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan? Granted, impressive oration is not completely dead in this era — one only has to turn to former President Barack Obama to see a shining example of someone who commanded the stage and rallied his audience with a silver tongue.

When representatives are elected, there is a certain standard to which they should be held. We vote for people we hope are well-informed and educated enough to speak articulately to their constituents. This is not to say that government officials should hold back their passion, but passion should not be equated with profanity or vulgarity.

It is one thing to speak colloquially in private, but it’s entirely different to do so in public with the whole nation watching. I am by no means expecting our politicians to be overly pretentious or fluent in Shakespearean English; what I do expect, however, is a little more respect for the offices they hold and the power they wield. This includes refraining from speaking like a foul-mouthed teenager when addressing the public.

Now, can we solely blame the demise of intelligent political rhetoric on Trump? No. Nevertheless, Trump’s tendency to say “things that are not only politically incorrect but offenses against common decency,” as Berry College Professor Peter Lawler put it to The Washington Post, does not quell this habit among other politicians. As representatives of the country that leads the free world, our politicians must conduct themselves with dignity, just as their predecessors once did.

Asha Kodan is a sophomore biology major. She can be reached at ashakodan@ymail.com

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