One good thing that comes with getting older is the ability to reflect on past political campaigns, and to relish those times when candidates made sport of their opponents with style and humor. Consider, for example, Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign in 1964, and his slogan “In Your Heart You Know He’s Right.” His opponent’s witty rejoinder of “In Your Guts You Know He’s Nuts” cut directly to the quick, but it was done with a degree of finesse.
In the 60’s and 70’s, Dick Tuck was a political trickster who engaged in a number of stunts that drove his opponents mad, including one notable escapade at a campaign rally where Richard Nixon was addressing a crowd from the back of a train. In the midst of Nixon’s remarks, Tuck borrowed a conductor’s hat and waved at the engineer causing the train to pull out of the station as Nixon, still talking, watched the crowd fade into the distance.
Fast forward to 2023, where political discourse features character assassination, slurs and insults of every variety, threats of physical violence to candidates and their families, and a multitude of other forms of offensiveness and coarse behavior. As an aside, it makes one wonder what would make someone choose to run for political office in our present day maelstrom of unrestrained viciousness.
The current level of crudity in politics was made abundantly clear to me, recently, as I drove along a residential street not far from my home. Imagine my shock as, in a neighborhood of nicely tended properties, I came face to face with a flag hanging from a front porch with the message “F*** Biden” emblazoned on it (I have obscured the obvious profanity). There were no other political signs visible on the property … just that large banner (probably 4’ x 6’) with the jarring message clearly visible to anyone walking or driving past.
It is important to note that my revulsion at this obscenity was not based on the political persuasion of the person being pilloried; I would have been equally offended regardless of party. But as I paused to reflect on what, if anything, I should do about this public affront, I came to the conclusion that someone displaying a brazen message of this sort on their front porch would likely not take kindly to my knocking on his door to discuss my concerns.
Instead, I reported what I had observed to the city council, while inquiring about any laws or ordinances that might be in play. Their prompt reply informed me that they were already aware of this obnoxious display but that, unfortunately, there was nothing they could do about it. In fact, a Neighborhood Police Officer had even visited this house to ask that the flag be removed but, with no ordinance or law prohibiting its display, the occupant refused to take it down. All this, by the way, in a community whose Vision Statement declares that it will be the most livable and best-managed city in the country.
For a citizen interested in showing support for a political party, position or individual, there are a number of ways to do so … writing letters of support … attending and speaking at government meetings … donating time or money to a campaign … running for office … and, of course, voting. But posting a profane message on the front of your house … is that supposed to convince someone of the rightness of your political stance?
I could be wrong, of course, but I doubt the resident here has any expectation of winning others over to his point of view. Instead, he is telling the world “It’s all about me,” and any impact his crude messaging has on passersby or his neighbors doesn’t bother him in the slightest. In other words … you don’t like my flag? Too Bad! Deal with it! And, more to the point, he is telling us all … “F*** You”
Other than the obscenity displayed proudly on his front porch, I don’t know anything about the person residing within. I believe, though, that the noted business and religious leader, Spencer Kimball, is right in suggesting:
Profanity is the effort of a feeble brain to express itself forcibly.