Synonyms: common, coarse, crude, gross, ill-bred, illiberal [archaic], incult, insensible, low, lowbred, lowbrow, raffish, rough, rough-hewn, roughneck, rude, rugged, tasteless, uncouth, uncultivated, uncultured, unpolished, unrefined, vulgar Antonyms: civilized, cultivated, cultured, genteel, polished, refined, smooth, tasteful, ultrarefined, well-bred
Sarah Palin sure has a way of bringing out the crassness in not only other people, but also herself. This week alone, there are multiple examples of crass behavior involving the former Governor of Alaska. What does it say about our culture that crassness has become so common place and accepted?
In response to President Obama’s State of the Union address, Sarah Palin was interviewed by Greta Van Susteran on Wednesday. (view video here) Going “On the Record,” Palin proceeded to criticize Obama’s State of the Union rhetoric, particularly his use of the phrase, “winning the future.” No problem in pointing out areas of disagreement with the President. I’ve got many myself. However, Palin then cutely suggested there were more “WT*” moments throughout Obama’s speech.
Why did I use an asterisk for the last letter? As a stand-in for a particularly crude word that, unfortunately, has become all too common in our crass culture. Many (perhaps most) people who have watched Sarah Palin’s interview immediately understood what she was saying. I must admit, even as a pastor, I knew exactly what she was communicating to the audience who were watching Fox News that night. If Palin was not trying to use shorthand for a vulgar term, then I’m really not sure what she was trying to accomplish.
I am neither a devoted fan of Sarah Palin nor a foe. I think that she has many wonderful qualities, but I am not inclined to vote for her in a Republican primary, were she to run in 2012. That doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t vote for her in a general election, especially if she were running against the current occupant of the Oval Office. However, just because she is a conservative Republican does not mean that she should get a pass when she says something that is out-of-bounds. I seem to remember lots of conservatives (and Christians) getting mightily upset when Vice President Joe Biden was picked up on a mic uttering a certain profanity into President Obama’s ear.
I find it hard to believe that anyone could believe that this was anything but a crass comment, notwithstanding a poll on National Review Online (since removed) that resulted in less than 30% of poll-takers (including yours truly) finding Palin’s comment crass. If this is what passes for cultivated, cultured, or tasteful in our society, then we must be having a Strother Martin “failure to communicate” moment.
We can try to pass off Palin’s WT* moment as nothing more than one of her homespun, Alaskan ways of talking to ordinary folks, but let’s not kid ourselves. If she wanted to communicate her critique of President Obama to be central, she would not have resorted to an obviously prepared “joke” that was indeed crass. After all, does anyone remember what Palin’s substantive analysis of Obama’s SOTU speech was? Me neither. That others — most notably the leftists at MSNBC with severe “Palin-Derangement Syndrome” — have savagely criticized Palin’s use of WT* (here and here) should in no way excuse Palin’s crass language.
If Palin’s language was crass, what can one say about “comedian” and “30 Rock” star Tracy Morgan? Interviewed during the pre-game “Inside the NBA” show on TNT prior to Thursday night’s game at Madison Square Garden between the New York Knicks and the Miami Heat, Charles Barkley asked Morgan if he thought Sarah Palin was “good-looking.”
Morgan quickly responded with a crass sexual comment involving the former Alaskan Governor and Vice-Presidential running mate of John McCain. I’m sure that Tracy Morgan thinks that he is funny, but why inject such a vulgar, tasteless comment into a sporting event? While I do not personally follow the NBA, I’m sure that there were many folks watching that night — including children — who wanted to hear about basketball, not be sucker punched with material from one of Morgan’s HBO specials.
Morgan’s is but one of a myriad of examples of the crass, tasteless, lowbrow language that is becoming the norm in our culture. Everywhere we turn, we seem to be inundated with crude speech. One cannot stand in the check-out line at a grocery store without be subjected to some of the most vulgar language, all spoken as if this was normal. And many times, the most foul-mouthed are women (certainly not ladies).
What would have been unimaginable even 10 years ago has become common-place today. How do we combat the crassness that has taken hold in our culture? Is it too late to return to a more civil, refined culture? With my own children coming of age in the present generation, I hope that we have not passed the tipping point.
If we are to see changes, it must begin in each of us. But, it should also be modeled by our leaders — elected, appointed, anointed, self-proclaimed, liberal, conservative, moderate, Republican, Democrat, Independent, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Atheist — in a variety of situations. Whether it’s answering Greta’s or Charles’ questions — on Fox News or TNT — language matters. Will it be crude or tasteful? That will go a long way to determining if we are a crass culture or a civilized one.