I realize I'm a bit slow in responding to this one, but frankly I was expecting everyone else to. Naive me, I thought there'd be some kind of an outcry when it was widely reported that the man who sits in our Oval Office boasted to the Prime Minister of Australia that the U.S. is "kicking ass" in Iraq.
Now I'm no prude when it comes to language, and "ass" seems to me a relatively inoffensive word anyway. But in this context, it's what it suggests about the attitude of the man who used it that bothers me. On the one hand, it suggests a kind of high school locker room mentality that unhappily no longer shocks with this particular individual. We've heard enough from him to know that his grasp of the subtleties of language is less than one might wish from "the leader of the free world." We've seen enough of his antics to understand that his sense of humor is, well, boyish at best. We have grown used to, if not weary of, his immaturity.
Worse still, though, is the delusional quality of his observation. "Kicking ass," in all its pathetic boastfulness and arrogance, suggests an ease of victory, an ability to impose one's will on others that simply appears absurd in the context of the war in Iraq, where progress--if indeed one concedes such a concept in the first place, has been slow and painful at best. It continues to be slow and painful. Whose ass exactly, I might wonder, are we kicking. The insurgents'? Al-Qaeda's? If so, they show a remarkable resilience to having their ass kicked, since they are still pretty much as virulent as ever. With American troops and Iraqi civilians being killed by the score each day, the concept of our having "kicked ass" in that environment seems wildly off base. Does this man really believe the words he lets so casually slip?
And worst of all, of course, is the fact that he's talking about human lives and limbs. In this context, the casual humor is--sorry, I'm not humorless, but really--inexcusable. What it has to say about the man is deeply troubling, even if it isn't news. The fact that it passes by with barely a ripple of critical response from press or public is a sad commentary on the state to which our society is reduced. (I have not checked the political wing of the Internet yet, but I'm sure that here I might find some of the outrage I'm looking for. Naive me, I just wish that the entire nation would rise up in anger.)
The Buddhist concept of "Right Speech" seems useful to me here. Would that the man who currently poses as our president might have learned a small piece of that wisdom.