The quickening descent of American politics into ribald, mean-spirited, and
generally coarse discourse should be no surprise: it has been on this trajectory
for several decades now, propelled not just by movies and music — which no
longer require commentary — but the psittacism, the constant, numbing negative
drumbeat, of harsh (not to mention un-Christian) verbiage on the internet and
talk-radio and cable TV.
The result, the fruit, is now constantly before us, as politics sinks into what
can most charitably be called a quagmire, and entertainment into a “cesspool of
impurity” (to borrow a phrase from the Blessed Mother at LaSalette).
Gutter language is the norm of modern America.
The other day a liberal woman in Gainesville, Florida, verbally assaulted
Governor Rick Scott, calling him — shouting at him — a word we don’t even want
to abbreviate. You used to be arrested for such things. There are no more
profanity laws, not really. Is there no such thing as decency? We are now,
indeed, a “Savage Nation” (the name of one caustic talk show).
Unfettered anger and uncharitableapproaches
have been drilled into us (listening to radio, as so many do, while working or
driving or sleeping, thus often only partly aware of what’s being said and how
it is being stated, although it washes to the subconscious). There is seething
anger: some justified, some inspired or magnified by the Prince of Division
(reigning behind the scenes, in the dark, in the radio waves; divide and
And so now we are at the point of tremendous factionalism; it’s why we often
carry articles under the category of “upheaval watch.” Minorities are mad.
Majorities are mad. Immigrants are mad. Natives are furious. Liberals detest
each other as much as they detest conservatives, and vice versa. Atheists are
furious. So are evangelicals.
Are we really still the “United” States when the governor of New York bans
official travel to the state of Mississippi because Mississippi has passeda
religious-rights law.This same
governor previously banned non-essential travel to North Carolina when that
state barred trans-sexuals from using restrooms opposite the gender they were
given (by God) at birth.
It is not just a passing observation,because
on many fronts, the seeds for civil uprising and/or even civil war have been
cultivated. That leaders and major commentators and candidates could be tearing
into each other the way they now do (“liar,” “sniveling,” “coward,” “stupid,”
“crazy,” small of hands) is astonishing even if it shouldn’t be astonishing —
upsetting even though one can see the frustration of the hitherto “silent
Punches are thrown at rallies. There is hatred. Insults about manhood fill the
air. Height and weight and looks are fair targets. There are salacious reports.
There are salacious photos (including of a potential First Lady).
On TV, formerly dignified and objective newsmen use language that only a short
time ago was confined to bars, sports stadiums, and gyms. Once-staid magazines
New Yorkerallow a certain
degree of scatological utterance; mainstream publications occasionally allow
their writers to use the “f-word” (in their own prose).
Women who claim to be Christian — often Catholic — take to the microphone and
use language once confined to men’s locker-rooms to besmirch the opposition (all
in the name of righteousness).
A “born-again” candidate for vice president (2008) uses the term “punk a—” to
describe protesters, while the sitting vice president is also known for a bit of
When the head of the Democratic partycusses
in front of nuns who are protesting the health mandate (the law that would force
them to pay for contraception), it’s just another news item that passes quickly.
How inured we have grown! (That’s a nice way of saying “hard.”)
We pay for such things in the afterlife.
“Shun the gossip of men as much as possible, for discussion of worldly affairs,
even though sincere, is a great distraction inasmuch as we are quickly ensnared
and captivated by vanity,” warned the classic Catholic writer, Thomas a Kempis.
“Hence, we talk and think quite fondly of things we like very much or of things
we dislike intensely. But, sad to say, we often talk vainly and to no purpose;
for this external pleasure effectively bars inward and divine
consolation. Therefore we must watch and pray lest time pass idly. When the
right and opportune moment comes for speaking, say something that will edify.”
Indeed we only have a set number of hourson this earth; it is wise to use that time
The undercurrent of harsh commentary, of execration, of cussing, is now burbling
— gushing — into the very fabric of American society. It is what our flag is now
fashioned with. It goes for every walk of life, and every political party. It is
what we wear. It is how we drive (now, too often, so rudely, and with profane
Is it caused, in large part, with the suddenly-roused white middle-class, by
what a magazine called Salon (itself known for caustic language) recently said,
in discussing “Savage Nation”?
“Between American multinationals, who do everything and anything to avoid taxes,
and American politicians, who so often trade on their office to amass vast
fortunes, regular working class Americans feel abandoned,”it
said. “For decades, as businesses have increasingly exploited undocumented
immigrants for cheap labor or moved operations out of the country entirely,
these voters have become resentful, watching their wages stagnate and full-time
jobs with benefits become scarcer by the day. For many of them… ‘Savage Nation’
is a kind of sanctuary.”
While there is no questionthat
a number of major issues have been neglected for far too long, and that the
middle class has been all but forgotten — with Washington unable to accomplish
just about anything, even when it has the notion to — good Christians are
allowing themselves to be swept toward a vortex of rancor. It could end up being
a truly epic divide (or series of them).