“People with integrity are those who words match their deeds and whose behaviors mirror their values.” – Stephen R. Covey

A person’s choice of words and the sentences they choose speaks volumes about their character, at least through these eyes. As I listen and read what many politicians are saying, I cringe upon hearing their choice of words and tasteless oratory. Personal attacks spiced with profanity designed to deflect attention from topics at hand are poor substitutes for articulate debate. Vulgar innuendoes about human anatomy and bodily functions made by a public figure become a statement about their character – not about the character or qualifications of the recipient.

When I read posts on social media loaded with vulgarity, I ask, “What are they trying to prove? Are they trying to shock me?” Often, I am disappointed and confused reading posts from people I know or know of, who possess good communication skills and have been educated in some of the finest colleges and universities, yet choose extremely profane words. Why?

Actually, there have been many studies on why people use vulgar language. Here are a few explanations. Some swear as a form of pain or stress relief. I for one, may fall into this category as a casual swearer, not a “chain-swearer.” A few well selected words on the golf course, when my driver misbehaves or my golf ball refuses to follow directions, does relieve stress. Does not help the golf swing, but it makes me feel better for a few seconds. However, I restrict these “unfortunate” words for my golf buddies, not general public comments – spoken or written.

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Other studies identify vulgar comments as a form of control and/or humor. Control over a bad situation or humor among friends is generally accepted. As Mark Twain said, “When angry, count to four; when very angry, swear.” Additionally, other sources identify peer and social bonding and self-expressing as reasons behind swearing. Most people want to “belong.” And, sometimes, controlled and carefully chosen “colorful” words can solidify this belonging. Also, sensibly selected off-color words can reinforce a point, and among friends, can be quite hilarious.

However, personally, vulgar public attacks designed to boost one person’s position or popularity over another’s, at the expense of the target-person’s reputation is not only wretched, but should be a red flag, alerting one to the character of the perpetrator.

Similarly, through my eyes, although vulgar posts on social media and public profanity is (generally) protected under the First Amendment, I personally feel this type of speech is a distraction and reflects poorly on the writer or speaker. I keep asking, “Why? If your purpose is to irritate, you have succeeded. If your purpose is to bring me to you side, you have failed. Time to press “Block.”

In our current and future political arenas, we need and deserve articulate debates on the issues, not vulgar personal attacks designed to distract and humiliate. Tell us your position and explain why. Answer our questions – plain and simple. As Joe Friday of 1950’s Dragnet fame said, “Just the facts, ma’am.”

All this being said, what attracts me is a well prepared communicative speaker who is solid within him/herself, well educated, and has a cultured mind. What pushes me away, far away, is someone who appears to have no “filter” on social media or on the political stage.

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Now, as before, the issue at hand is, “What attracts you?” Then, ask yourself…Why?

Until next time,

Michael