When I was about seven – which was deemed the vaunted, if arbitrary, ‘age of reason’ in my Catholic school, I finally got a look-see at the actual Ten Commandments. Besides being disturbed by God’s massive insecurity, so obvious in the first three commandments, I was amazed not to find “Thou shalt not swear.” Though swearing could reasonably fit under #2’s name-in-vain rubric or #8’s bearing false witness clause, I had expected to find something as clear as #5’s “Thou shalt not kill.” In our house using bad words was a big sin and I had tasted my share of gritty Lava bar soap.
We were also never allowed to tell anyone to shut up. When I was five, my grandmother was on an Easter visit, and she was supervising me in my Saturday morning chores. It was a gorgeous spring morning and I was resentfully dusting my mom’s beloved, heavily laden three-tiered knick-knack table so I could get outside to my bike. My grandmother told me I had missed a leg. I told her to shut up. In the horrified stillness, she asked, “Did you just tell me to shut-up?”
“No,” I told her, “I was talking to God.”
It still makes me cringe.
And we were never allowed to call anyone stupid. Ever.
“Even if they are?” I asked.
Years later when I watched A Fish Called Wanda, I saw what my parents must have thought would happen if you called someone stupid. Kevin Kline plays Otto, a weapons man in a diamond heist who fancies himself intellectual, but is actually quite stupid. If anyone references his stupidity, he warns ominously, “Don’t call me stupid,” and can be triggered into homicidal apoplexy, physical torture and Angelfish eating.
Perhaps these family rules against swearing, telling someone to shut up or calling someone stupid were my parent’s home-schooled civics lesson intended to make my brothers, sister and me good citizens. For the most part I have been able to abide by the spirit of those formative rules, at least with my outside voice.
But listening to my 100% fact-free, FOX-infused tea-bagging fellow citizens, I feel as if I am foaming at the mouth in an Otto-men empire, barely holding back a good string of blush inducing invective.
“Why can’t I call them stupid?” I whine. My dear galpal advises caution, saying it’s not a matter of stupidity but class. And they might eat your fish.
I think it’s racism tarted up as class. Just look at the pictures. Or watch Congress on CSPAN. If I had been in Nancy Pelosi’s double-knits, I’m not sure I would have had such gavel restraint.
When Otto tells Wendy, his partner in crime played by Jamie Lee Curtis, not to call him stupid, she says, “Why on earth not?”
Indeed. The months of shameful tea-bagging behavior, goaded on by media rogues and the proud do-nothing Republiban Party had quite a culmination at the end of the health care reform debate.
First, you had the sight of tea-baggers calling civil rights hero Rep. John Lewis the “N” word.
Then they spat on another black Rep., Emmanuel Cleaver.
When Rep. Barney Frank walked by, they hurled a nasty homophobic name at him.
But that wasn’t the end of it. After the historic vote, someone threw a brick through the office window of Rep. Louise Slaughter. And her office received death threats against members of Congress and their kids. Rep. James Clyburn, the most senior black member of Congress, was faxed a noose. At least eight other Democrats reported threats or vandalism.
The off of the Monroe County Democratic Committee in Rochester, New York, also was hit with a brick, which had the following note attached: “Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice.”
That’s just stupid out loud.
Kate “This is a big f**in deal” Clinton