I learned this was a “thing” when I was accused of it for posting a blog, after last year’s January 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol, in which I called for an end to all the violence—from that Capitol riot by some Trump supporters, to the far more lethal rioting by some on the left that swept our cities over the previous year.
Then I began to hear progressives regularly apply the term to any attempt to defend misbehavior by Trump supporters (which I was not doing) by calling out similar misbehavior by anti-Trumpers.
So I was interested recently to see left wing talking head Joy Reid engaging in some “whataboutism” of her own. Endeavoring to deflect criticism of President Biden for calling a reporter a “stupid SOB” (the president didn’t abbreviate the offensive term), she said, in effect, What about the “F… Joe Biden” signs brandished by Trump supporters?
Actually, she referenced the “Let’s Go Brandon” phrase that some have creatively substituted for the anti-Biden obscenity. But that at least injected some much-needed levity into our overheated political climate, and testified, even if unintentionally, to the repugnance of the profanity it was replacing.
It seems that to progressives, “whataboutism” is only wrong when employed against them by Trump supporters. When they use it to defend their progressive president’s offensive remarks, that’s perfectly OK.
And often, the left’s answer to “Whataboutism” seems to be a “SoWhatism” to sometimes worse behavior by those they agree with.
The January 6 riot was presaged in Wisconsin 10 years earlier by government workers taking over the statehouse to block passage of bills they didn’t like? So what, they were trying to block conservative legislation, so that was OK.
Rioting by left-wing activists throughout 2020 that terrorized our cities? So what, those were insurrections against the police, and against Donald Trump, so that was OK.
Democrats constantly refusing to accept the legitimacy of elections they lost (Bush in 2000, Trump in 2016, Stacey Abrams 2018 defeat in Georgia)? So what, they were trying to overturn Republican election victories, so that was OK.
Now, having said all that, let me clearly register my disgust at those “F… Joe Biden” banners, chants, T-shirts, etc.
To be sure, I am appalled by the disastrous performance of the Biden administration, from the Afghanistan withdrawal fiasco, to the chaos and human suffering on our southern border, soaring inflation at home and dangerous aggressions of our adversaries abroad.
Add to that more people having died of COVID on his watch than on President Trump’s — after he said Trump “should not remain as president” given the number who died when he was in office — and we have some idea of the utter failure that has been the Biden presidency.
And I am especially appalled that Mr. Biden, who wears his Catholicism on his sleeve, achieved his party’s nomination by completely caving to its most extreme pro-abortion demands.
But all this can be said — forcefully, as I have just done — without resort to vulgar obscenities meant to offend rather than persuade.
I try, when someone I agree with engages in questionable rhetoric or actions, to ask myself how I would react if those I disagree with engaged in similar behaviors.
In the current climate, the question answers itself. I don’t like it when President Biden resorts to profanity and personal insults; nor should I like it when his critics do. I was outraged 10 years ago when those protesters seized control of the Wisconsin statehouse to block Gov. Scott Walker’s initiatives. So I should have been, and was, outraged when a mob tried to seize the U.S. Capitol a year ago to stop Biden’s election from being certified.
Now I will agree, there are far worse things poisoning our politics and culture than foul language. And I certainly don’t pretend that I never utter a profanity myself, in momentary anger or frustration. But I don’t go shouting them publicly, parading them on banners, or otherwise shoving them in people’s faces.
And I submit that the coarseness of language that permeates virtually every aspect of modern society is a contributing factor to the polarization that plagues us today. At the very least, it demonstrates disrespect for the sensibilities of others. At worst, it communicates hate. And hateful language can presage hateful actions.
So I implore those who share my strong opposition to President Biden and his policies: Don’t like his uncalled-for profanity, at news conferences or on the campaign trail? Outraged by Snoop Dogg’s “F…the Police” rap lyrics? Turned off by crotch-grabbing, profanity-spewing pro athletes? Tired of being bombarded with profanities in daily conversation?
So please, in the name of consistency and decency, lose the “F… Joe Biden” chants and banners.
For three decades, Rick Hinshaw has given voice to faith values in the public square, as a columnist, then editor of The Long Island Catholic; Communications Director for the Catholic League and the N.Y. State Catholic Conference; co-host of The Catholic Forum cable TV show; and now editor of his own blog, Reading the Signs. Visit Rick’s home page at rickhinshaw.com. Read Rick Hinshaw's Reports — More Here.
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