Paul R. Lehman, Trump’s use of the s—hole word more than a slip of the tongue

January 27, 2018 at 1:46 pm | Posted in Africa, democracy, ethnic stereotypes, European Americans, political tactic, President Trump, racism, respect, The Oklahoman | 1 Comment
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A recent statement published in the “Your Views” section of The Oklahoman (1/24/2018) by Georgia Newton showed how brief statements can reveal more about us than we might think. The title of the statement is “Grow up,” which can suggest a number of interpretations. Although the statement is brief, it provides a considerable amount of food for thought.

The first sentence stated: “President Trump’s alleged question about  ‘s—hole countries’ reminds me of something that happened when I was 12.” We know that Newton is an adult and has an opinion concerning the question allegedly made by Trump concerning countries inhabited primarily by people of color. We also know that she will compare Trump’s use of that “s” word to something remembered from her past. We know, in addition, from the title, that she has an emotional connection to the word.

In her second sentence, we are told about her experience when she was 12: “My cousin and I were playing a game of Monopoly and something didn’t go my way, and I said the same bad word.”  We now know that her experience involved playing a board game with her cousin during which she encountered a bad experience. As a result of that experience, she uttered the same ‘s’ word which she labeled as bad. We learned that sometimes when things did not go her way she reacted by using bad words.

Her third sentence indicated that “My cousin said she was going to tell on me—and she did.” From the actions of her cousin, we learned that the ‘s’ word was not socially acceptable in her family. Had the word been acceptable, telling an adult would serve no purpose. We were not informed of the repercussion she encountered from her cousin telling on her.

Her fourth sentence told us more about Newton: “Our lawmakers are making such a big deal over this!” This sentence indicated a lack of understanding relative to the significance of the ‘s’ word used in a negative context and with direct reference to countries of people of color. The political implications relating to the diplomatic relations that America has with those countries were underscored by the “Lawmakers making a big deal over “ it because they understood the possible repercussions from such a negative characterization.

Newton’s next utterance of “Really?” showed that her attention was simply on the use of a “bad word” as opposed to who used the word, namely, Trump, when and where he used it. Had she been fully aware of the history of Trump and his history with people of color, she might have given it a second thought. The fact that she asked the question indicated that she did not place any diplomatic significance on the lawmakers’ reactions to Trump’s use of the word in conjunction with the negative associations of his biases.

Newton’s final words were:”Grow up!” We can only assume that her command was directed towards the lawmakers who were making a big deal of the use of the bad word. However, her choice of phrase reflected more on her arrogance and lack of understanding relative to the situation than to the lack of maturity on the part of the lawmakers. The phrase “Grow up” means to progress toward or arrive at the full stature of physical and/or mental maturity, or to develop from childhood towards adulthood. Evidently, that definition is not what Newton had in mind when addressing the lawmakers since the qualifications for officer holders are well-established for adults. Her use of that phrase was probably meant to challenge their intellectual growth.

The fact that Newton would criticize the lawmakers for taking offense at Trump’s use of the ‘s’ words in the context in which it was used indicated that she was not conversant with the diplomatic history of the situation. The command also indicated that she had no problem with the use of “bad words” in general since they represent no big deal. The fact that ethnic bigotry and the social value of people of color was not readily apparent to Newton indicated that she simply viewed the ‘s’ word in isolation. Evidently, she believes that using socially unacceptable language is fine if one is upset or things are not going his or her way. That attitude suggests behavior more akin to a child than an adult.

An indication of the level of maturity questioned in Newton’s statement occurred when she used and compared a childhood incident in which she used the ‘s’ word to the one used by the President of the United States. She, unlike the lawmakers, saw no difference in the use of the word. The fact that she equated the use of the word in both cases as similar speaks volumes about her intellectual maturity. No one questions Newton’s right to speak freely about whatever she wants to address; however, once she has spoken, and publically, the readers have the freedom to comment on what was said, and view it critically.

Newton’s command to “grow up” at the end of her statement suggested that she was a grown up and that she judged the lawmakers, and subsequently, those who believed as did the lawmakers, not to be grown-ups.  Unfortunately, the fact that she did not understand the seriousness of Trump’s use of the ‘s’ word and the political impact it would have on our diplomatic relations with the countries included in his statement showed a lack of knowledge regarding the situation. Her lack of knowledge, nevertheless, did not prevent her from assuming a lack of intellectual maturity on the part of the lawmakers. What we readers discovered from Newton’s statement was the lack of information, knowledge, perception, and maturity from her as an adult.

As she continues to mature our hope is that Newton realizes that words do not exist in a vacuum and depending on how they are used, they have consequences that can range from soft and sweet to dangerous. Words also have histories, and knowledge of that history can be very important when used in a certain context. Really? Really.


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