I have been having fun watching all the TV news people and pundits having fun with Donald Trump's latest pronouncement denied by some, insisted upon as truth by others. They have been having a field day, regardless of their ideology or political leaning with the word itself.
Warning, here it comes.
My fun is in how it takes me back 50 years to when I was a college station DJ and newscaster. That was around 1966-70 to be exact. George Carlin hadn't gotten WBAI into trouble with his words you can never say on TV which came out in 1972. In case you don't remember, the first word on the list was, yep, shit.
Anyway, back in those days such words and milder were not allowed on TV or radio under any circumstance.Then, in the late summer of 1968, probably around the time of that infamous Democratic Convention in Chicago, the pop group Spanky and Our Gang came out with a song titled "Give a Damn." It's chorus went:
And it might begin to teach youHere's how Wikipedia tells what happened:
How to give a damn about your fellow man
And it might begin to teach you
How to give a damn about your fellow man
In spite of not receiving airplay in several markets because of the curse word in its title, as well as its use of the sound of an African American man from the ghetto saying something that was not understood, ending in his laughter before the song's fade – and because it was a comment on racial equality that became the theme song for the New York Urban Coalition – the song became a regional hit where released and overall made No. 43. The band also performed the song live on an episode of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, resulting in CBS' Standards and Practices division receiving numerous complaints about the song's title being used during "family viewing hours". One such complaint reportedly came from President Richard Nixon. "Give a Damn" would become John Lindsay's campaign song during his successful run for mayor of New York.But we sure had fun playing it and, mostly saying the word damn on radio.
The following spring The Beatles released a song that got a similar treatment. "The Ballad of John and Yoko" had the following chorus:
Needless to say, when we were allowed to play it, we loved the rebelliousness of the song. WLS in Chicago and WABC in New York, two of the BIG radio stations never played it. I know I wasn't supposed to play it on the station back home I worked at that summer.Christ you know it ain't easy
You know how hard it can be
The way things are going
They're going to crucify me
Those days are long gone, of course. Lots of words a great deal worse than those are now found on regular TV from time to time, especially later at night, although lots of bleeping is still heard on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
Which is why this (get ready for it) shitstorm over shithole is so much fun to watch. (Yes, I'm having fun writing this. There's still a little of that young rebel in here somewhere.) I haven't sat and paid close attention to the networks and news channels to know who is doing what with the word, who's bleeping, or censoring and who has actually used the word. I am sure there was a lot of backroom and production office discussion about how to handle it. But I am also fairly certain that apart from the political leanings of the newscaster or pundit, they are enjoying just being able to talk about shit like this, even if they can't or don't explicitly use the word.
Some of you have probably seen the cable TV interview program, Inside the Actors Studio. One of the ten regular questions that host James Lipton asks every guest is "What is your favorite curse word?" You might have guessed with this post what mine is. When shit happens, I usually say "Shit!"
But let me take a twist in this post. As much fun as I have had with watching all this shit on TV about a word used by the President, I am sick of this shit.
It is not about the word!
It is not that it is fun and perhaps even titillating to viewers.
It is not that the President of the United States knows how to swear. (Remember Richard Nixon's [expletive deleted] from the Oval Office transcripts? And LBJ I am sure had a bigger potty mouth than Trump ever will!)
It is about the attitude and the seeming racism that underlies it. It is about civility and compassion for people who are not as fortunate as we are. It is about the way the amazing and caring policies of the United States are being slowly eaten away. I have been challenged by a friend to name these policies that I have come to dislike and which raises a great deal of fear in me and many like me. Not that the President has a potty mouth. I don't give a shit that he does. I do care that he is doing things which many believe will undermine the future of this great country. I will be working on that post over the next days and hopefully posting it by next week.
Until then- to the news media and all the rest of us- let's stop this shit over a word. Let's stop using it as a sign of something it isn't and get to the real issues the incident has raised- one new one among many. Yes, I am guilty of using it to get my shit out on the table. But it is far deeper and far more dangerous than a simple word we can't ever say on TV.
I'll be back with more thoughts by next week.