In today's modern Galaxy there is of course very little still held to be unspeakable. Many words and expressions which only a matter of decades ago were considered so distastefully explicit that, were they merely to be breathed in public, the perpetrator would be shunned, barred from polite society, and in extreme cases shot through the lungs, are now thought to be very healthy and proper, and their use in everyday speech and writing is seen as evidence of a well-adjusted, relaxed and totally un****ed-up personality.I thought of this quote when I began reading the coverage of President's Obama's "posterior-kicking" moment, though of course the president didn't say "posterior." Here's what he did say:
So, for instance, when in a recent national speech the Financial Minister of the Royal World Estate of Quarlvista actually dared to say that due to one thing and another and the fact that no on had made any food for a while and the king seemed to have died and most of the population had been on holiday now for over three years, the economy was now in what he called "one whole joojooflop situation," everyone was so pleased that he felt able to come out and say it that they quite failed to note that their entire five-thousand-year-old civilization had just collapsed overnight. [Douglas Adams, Life, the Universe, and Everything, c. 1982, asterisks in original]
Predictably, media coverage has centered around this provocative quote. Some are faux-shocked, others are faux-outraged, while still others are faux-supportive. With all of the faux floating around, it's easy to miss the fact that as everybody decides whether or not it's appropriate for the President of the United States to use a juvenile slang word describing the gluteus maximus region and, further, to declare that he wants to kick someone's, we're missing a very important point: that assigning blame to some person or persons at BP isn't in any way, shape, or form going to solve the small matter of the crisis of the spewing forth of oil all over the Gulf, ruining the ecosystem and the livelihoods of untold numbers of people for years and years to come, and that in fact President Obama's rush to assign blame might be counterproductive until after that crisis of the spewing forth of oil etc. is, you know, actually SOLVED.
A variety of critics have accused Obama of being too cerebral in his reaction to the undersea gusher now fouling the Gulf of Mexico, of failing to put the full force of the administration and of putting too much trust in oil company BP. NBC's Matt Lauer asked Obama about the criticism that he should spend more time in the Gulf instead of with experts and "kick some butt."
Obama told NBC his deliberations have been more than academic.
"I don't sit around talking to experts because this is a college seminar," Obama continued. "We talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers, so I know whose ass to kick."
Pardon my frustration.
Since when did we decide that "leadership" is, or ought to be, synonymous with making sure that corporations who give huge amounts of money to politicians produce, at the right time, a sufficient number of people who will line up, bend over, and receive (symbolically) a severe presidential posterior punting?
It's hard to say. But if that's what "leadership" means in twenty-first century America, then we really are in one whole joojooflop situation. If you'll pardon the expression.