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Cursing in Public

It’s fascinating that the D.C. Council had to pass a new rule to prohibit councilmembers from cursing during public meetings. One would think that adults would just abide by this without needing a written rule. Maybe the council can now put a jar on the dais and each time someone says a bad word they would have to put in a dollar, just like they do in a lot of kindergarten classes.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think the rule is fine but adults should know better than to use profane language in their debates whether they are at a public meeting or not. Good discussions and debates even in private shouldn’t have to rely on the use of profanity. When someone has to resort to cursing in an argument it is often because they have run out of anything intelligent to say. So instead of just keeping quiet they curse at the other person.

The use of profanity in discourse isn’t something new and it usually results from frustration or intense dislike. I have never seen profanity accomplish anything in the way of influencing another person or making them change their mind and in fact it usually ends a debate and makes the person who it is used against just dig in deeper on their opinion.

We have seen public discourse go downhill over the years and the current debate between liberals and conservatives and Democrats and Republicans is a prime example. It isn’t always the use of profanity but often just using language that denigrates each others' religion, beliefs and way of life in ways that don't accomplish anything or change anyone’s mind.

In many ways, our children’s use of social media tools may make intelligent debate a lost art. When you can communicate using LOL, BRB, LMAO, or hundreds of other shortened ways of saying something, you lose the ability to hold a good conversation. People no longer write letters and schools often don’t teach the classics. You can graduate from high school in the District of Columbia without having ever gone to the Smithsonian or seen a play. So is it any wonder that intelligent and intellectual conversation and debate has become something of a lost art.

While we may often think our political opponents are just plain stupid when they disagree with us, calling them that will only make matters worse. Just watch the reaction of the person you curse out or denigrate in a conversation and see how it impacts the entire discussion. We have seen schoolyard bullies and how their words can impact a child who is weaker or less able to hold their own. At the same time we have seen adults get so riled up by being called names that they resort to threatening or actual violence in response. Being a verbal bully never leads to a good result.

Our councilmembers should stop bullying each other, or calling each other names and at the least, apologize to each other when things do get out of hand. Doing so would make a good example for our children.