I was crouched under my couch trying to retrieve a Peppa Pig toy for my 18-month-old daughter when my five-year-old son walked up and asked: “Dad, what’s a shithole?”
My head quickly dropped to the floor, I laid motionless for a couple seconds to use the recliner section of the couch as an aid to hide my laughter. My habit of leaving that back office tv on the news presented me with an essential moment in my son’s life; his first curse word. I had been better at turning that TV off when I wasn’t back there because I have to be on guard with Trump. It wasn’t that long ago when the kids were in the room, and Trump called for some “son of a bitch” NFL player to be fired on live television. Thankfully the kids were distracted at the time.
I made an executive decision not to rob my wife from the magic of this important moment in our son’s life. There’s also a small possibility that I wanted to pass this task off to her. I turned to him and said, “Ask your mom. She’s in the kitchen, bet she knows.”
When he turned, I leaped up in anticipation of seeing her reaction.
“Hey, Mom, what’s a shithole?”
My wife has a unique laugh it tends to echo off the walls for just a little longer than you would expect.
Most of us were handed down a funny story about our first time using a curse word and who inspired the usage. My wife at three was influenced by her dad screaming at a car that cut him off. I was influenced at six by a line Michael J. Fox said in Back To The Future. Now we add to our memory bank, our son’s first experience in cursing was influenced by news of a pretty racially insensitive statement from the President of the United States.
That said, my wife doesn’t blame her father nor do I blame Michael J Fox for our love of profanity, and I won’t blame Donald Trump for my son’s future use of profanity. Though it’s not ideal that the leader of the country is the reason we have to teach our son about bad words, the wife and I are not angels sent on a mission from God. So far we’ve just been lucky that he didn’t hear our slips of colorful language, or the words said in the PG-13 movies we play at the house until now.
Obviously, we decided with the original usage of shithole as the explanation; a crude toilet before the invention of indoor plumbing. It was a suitable answer seeing how he was just curious. Plus explaining to a five-year-old how people used to defecate in a hole was not as nauseating as explaining the willfully ignorant context of the President’s comment.
I do fear the empowerment Trump has given my son after the “shit means poop” lesson. We couldn’t lie to him about the meaning, the word “shit” has no acceptable context for a five-year-old. Also included in our checklist of embedding the levity of the word to him, I have to prepare myself to keep a stark face when the teacher inevitably tells me that during craft time my son decided to notify everyone that he had to “shit real bad.”
I have an affinity for those four lettered words of illumination as does my wife. We don’t have the opinion most of the society shares with their inappropriateness. We will probably will have no issues with our children using profanity at the age they can fully appreciate when it’s inappropriate.
However — There’s a unique frustration with Trump’s monosyllabic yelp as a parent living in Trump Country. The people defending Trump’s comment are people, just like my family, who would have whooped my ass for using the word shithole as a child. The voters of Oklahoma unsurprising support Trump, but these are also the same people that care deeply about cultivating an environment free of foul language. When you live in a state like Oklahoma that has the 4th highest percentage of evangelicals, contradictions become ingrained into your society.
President of the United States, a goal touted to elementary students all over America, now says things like Son of a Bitch and Shithole. Words that typically getting sent to the principal’s office are now just part of the presidential vocabulary. Pretty cool, huh?
I can say, I’m not shocked Trump would describe someplace as a shithole. A billionaire, born into wealth, with a gold penthouse in his Manhattan skyscraper probably has felt some restaurants or department stores we see as typical are shitty. I can understand that to a point. However, if I bring up my disgust of Trump’s usage of shithole to describe a country, the majority of Oklahomans which have been known to bitch moral degradation will fight to minimize the language. Mind you, the language they traditionally over-punish, in my opinion.
Thus, I live in a reality defined in societal contradiction. They get adjustable moral values for any political field that can be defended from any of society’s complaints with the generic banner of political correctness. It’s infuriating. These are same Evangelical voters who lobbied hard for explicit ratings on music and television and movies are now saying, it’s okay if the President says it. I mean, what? You’re shittin me.
My problem now is that I no longer know where inappropriate language comes from. For years Fox News personalities and typically steadfast conservative pundits warned of the corrosive influence modern popular culture like Hip-Hop, Rap, movies, video games, and television would have on the moral values of our children’s generation. Now those same talking heads will defend anything, and everything Trump proclaims to the point where I have to treat their candidate like I treat the artist they felt were so troublesome.
As parents in Trump County, we can’t just put our guard down from Trump’s colorful word choice and just let our children soak up his language. Our community, one that’s partly responsible for putting Trump in this position of power, isn’t inclusive to children who have picked up Trump’s language style. So now we have to be guarded when watching live events where Trump has a microphone and, apparently, my wife can’t listen to NPR when she takes our son to school.
On that note, as a person who writes about media and politics I wholeheartedly believe the media cannot censor the President’s words. The press is responsible for adding context to situations, not lessen the context of events because they’re sensitive.
Trump influenced my son’s first use of profanity, but by this point my community and the politically elastic commenters that empower and encourage Trump to continue comments like “shithole” need to take responsibility. If this year has taught us anything it’s that Trump’s confidence comes from his supporters. There’s numerous reasons why allies should pressure Trump to adapt to a less profane and decisive approach. If my community refuses to recognize that Trump’s the exact thing that they warned us for decades would coarsen our values and morals than we were never a community in the first place; we were an autoimmune disease.