Thursday, March 01, 2012

call it like it is

I dislike euphemisms. Perhaps this can be attributed to early childhood training; Mom was a biology major and taught us to label our anatomy and functions accurately. I didn't learn any cutesy demeaning nicknames for my genitalia. I have a vagina, boys have a penis, no one has a "v-jay-jay" or a "wee-wee" or whatever. There's even an apocryphal story in my family about Mom trying to teach the barely articulate toddler me the word "urinate," because she hated hearing other small kids yelling in grocery stores "Mama I have to pee-pee" and stuff. This, so they tell me, resulted in a tearful confrontation in which I burst out with "I am not a Nate! You're a Nate!"

So. Maybe it's my mama's fault, but I have little patience for euphemism, in just about all contexts. (Which helps, now that I think of it, to explain my attraction to the blog motif of "rude truth." Rude--straight up--unvarnished--blunt, non-euphemistic talk to be had here, y'all.)

A large part of my personal frustration with politics therefore takes the form of hating the euphemistic mode of communication taken for granted there. Particularly on issues of race or sex where euphemisms contribute to, not just befuddlement, but the maintenance of the status quo. If you can't label it accurately, you can't talk about it honestly.

One thing bugging me in particular these days is this "social issues," "culture wars," "religious freedom" (?!), "values voters" stuff. Campaigning as the real Christian or most Christian candidate, while dragging up the euphemistically labeled "social issues" (abortion, contraception) to attract the euphemistically called "values voters" (a certain brand of nationalistic biblicist who want a Christian theocracy) is just another form of blatant identity politics, even if no one will call it that, and it's high time we did. It's also, not coincidentally, the current manifestation of white identity politics. And that puts "Christian identity" in bed with racism, whether or not you want to say so out loud.

I think these phrases ought to hit our ears like the dirty words they are. Euphemisms are pretty masks for ugly realities, and meant to be so so that we can leave the social contract to ignore ugly reality undisturbed.

Another apocryphal story comes to mind now, thus one from college and by way of JBB. Once upon a time there was a stand-up Christian dude, who had obeyed all the laws and commandments since he was a child, even studiously and obediently avoiding all cursing and foul language, except that he frequently used the n-word. A friend of his was greatly disturbed by this and confronted him but to no avail. And so this friend devised a plan: every time he heard that word from the guy, he would respond by yelling "FUCK!" as loud as he could. Pretty soon Mr. Stand-Up Christian got the point.

Call it like it is.

Christian identity is being euphemized into a racist, sexist political identity by people who see this as their route to power. I think Christians should probably be objecting to that. Don't you?


Anonymous said...

Point of fact: at no point in your life have you ever been "barely articulate"- even in toddlerdom. I should know. :)

With sincere affection,


Anonymous said...

If you're so anti-euphemism, why did you not spell out the n-word? Are you not doing that which you claim to abhor? If you were truly "Rude--straight up--unvarnished--blunt, non-euphemistic" -- you would have used the word. You had the balls to use the f-word, so why not the n-word?

Sarah Moon said...


Sarah Moon said...

The N-word is a harmful, hurtful word that is triggering for many people. There's a difference between avoiding a loaded word that is deliberately used to hurt and dehumanize others and masking the truth by using euphemisms.

JJT said...

Because the n-word is a lie.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm... sounds like out-of-control political correctness to me. Good day to you.

JJT said...

Anonymous comments are always pure gold. Thanks for the laugh.