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C.O.D.
Politicians have always had something of a reputation for dishonesty. That was before, though. The lying politicians of old were known for a more circuitous sort of dissembling. They did not traffic in blatant, easily disprovable lies. Instead, they used a subtler style which conceals untruths in a cloud of tangled wordage that sounds plausible but means nothing. “Bafflegab,” my father used to call it.

We still have that kind of politician, of course. In fact, a good armor of meaningless bullshit is vital to anyone who runs for public office. It can be false or true. That’s the beauty of bafflegab. It’s main function is to obscure, and its only real deception is that it actually means something.

Now, however, such distinctions don’t seem to matter. We have entered a whole new age of political lying. As 65% of us know, this new age was ushered in by our newest president, who utters clearly demonstrable falsehoods every time — every time — he opens his mouth. For the remaining 35%, this doesn’t matter as long as he hates the same people they hate. The GOP, which believes its hold on power relies on the continued fealty of this minority, has mostly followed the President’s lead — and taken up the bald-faced lie as a weapon against his enemies.

It is a sin, I am told, to tell a lie. God doesn’t like it, it’s morally repugnant, it’s completely unprincipled. That’s why it’s so curious that the Republican Party, a group that has historically bragged about its high principles of personal conduct, its emphasis on morality, and its rock solid belief in God, would so effortlessly transition to unapologetic lying as a political style.

The purest of the Republican pure, the most righteous defenders of righteousness, belong to the Freedom Caucus. The Freedom Caucus, if you don’t know, is a fraternity of Congressmen (okay, Debbie Lesko of Arizona is also a member) in the House who espouse libertarian or very conservative beliefs. Interestingly, this group has been among the most ardent defenders of the President — and the most consistent liars in D.C. Indeed, they are so pure that they attack members of their own party, especially those who have been caught telling the truth.

Ohio 4th District hero Jim Jordan is a co-founder of the Freedom Caucus and one of the its leading sources of misinformation. (The 4th District, incidentally, is a bit of a lie itself — gerrymandered as it is to resemble a C-clamp that carefully avoids touching nearby Columbus.) Jimmy (as he is called by his towel-snapping bros in the FC) is the most angry and unrelenting in his pursuit of proof that doesn’t seem to exist. Benghazi malfeasance, the deep state, and fake news have all come under his pitiless examination.

I mention Jimmy here because he has come under scrutiny for some possible untruths he has told about his past tenure as an Ohio State wrestling coach. Several of the athletes under his care have charged that Jimmy knew of rampant sexual misconduct by school officials and did nothing to protect them from it. What kind of misconduct? Well, the kind ol’ Denny Hastert (disgraced Speaker of the House and himself a retired wrestling coach) was guilty of — and apparently some even creepier stuff. How bad was the wrestling culture at OSU? A recent headline quoted one witness to those events who called it a “Cesspool of Deviancy.”

A Cesspool of Deviancy. That is some deathless headline copy right there. Apparently, Jimmy lived in his own little houseboat, docked there on the edge of the cesspool, and (he now says) never smelled a thing. That’s in spite his super-acute nose for other things stinky and indecent.

In fact, he claims to smell the deep state and fake news at the center of this fuss about his behavior at Ohio State. As usual, there’s not much evidence for any of his propositions, only the deeply held suspicions of Jordan, the Freedom Caucus, and the President that something must be going on.

A Cesspool of Deviancy. I admit that headline was my main reason for writing this rambling essay about lying in our current politics. A Cesspool of Deviancy. That image could stand in for the whole Trumpocracy we are now witnessing, from the corruption and self-dealing to the selling out of our national security to the cruel mass abduction of brown-skinned children — all founded on the non-stop, bald-faced, so-sue-me lying that now permeates Republican Washington.

Perhaps the deviancy we’re seeing is only away from the norm of old-fashioned obfuscation and toward the new style of intentional falsehood. That seems like a big change to me, though. Bafflegab was something I could dismiss and ignore. What do I do with an outright lie that insists it is true?
Kiss This
They did it again at Wimbledon this year. After the awards ceremonies, champions Angelique Kerber and Novak Djokovic kissed their trophies. They did it repeatedly, but seemingly without passion.

They’ve been celebrating victory in tennis this way for as long as I can remember: kissing the trophy, smiling broadly, then kissing the trophy again. Over and over as the cameras click and whir. These champions are not really celebrating, though. The smiling part is genuine enough, but the kissing is almost certainly being done at the request of photographers.

It’s embarrassing, or should be, for everyone involved. I suppose we should cut some slack for the athletes themselves. Their ascendant performances, after all, are the reasons we are celebrating in the first place. They are in a generous mood during these moments of triumph and willing to accede to the lame suggestions from the crowd. We could hope for more dignity on their parts, but so far none has dared to resist the pleas of the press.

The photographers, for their part, have shown an abject failure of imagination in these matters. Instead of capturing something real or unpredictable, they shout out “Kiss it! Kiss it!” The champion kindly complies, and we get the same lame photo every year.

Rafael Nadal has tried to carve out his own exception to this sad tradition by gnawing the handles of his various pieces of hardware. Nice try, Rafa, but you still give in to the kiss requests. The women’s champions don’t really have the bite-it option since their trophy (at Wimbledon, at least) is not a cup but a plate. I keep hoping some rasty female winner will dare to bite her platter. That could end up looking a bit klutzy, but so does kissing the edge of a big silver plate.

I want to be fair. There have been genuine expressions of love between athletes and their metallic prizes. We have witnessed hugging, nuzzling, and even weeping. No less a champion than Michael Jordan blubbered like a toddler while clutching the very homely Larry O’Brien Trophy. The great Roger Federer has, in fact, shed tears over the Wimbledon trophy. Of course, that was because it was being handed to Rafael Nadal and not to him, but the emotion still seemed quite genuine.

It has been reported that hockey players have performed all kinds of lewd acts on the defenseless Stanley Cup. Most of this has taken place behind closed doors, but I have no doubt that those expressions of affection were sincere as well, albeit kinky. Consent by the trophy, I suppose, is assumed in such cases.

So that is all good. My quarrel here is with kissing done on command. It shames us all — especially the trophy and all that it represents about the game, sportsmanship, and fair play. Tennis trophies, moreover, are the most beautiful, especially in the Grand Slams. These bowls, cups, and plates are all both elegant and gorgeous. As the royalty of loving cups, they deserve something better than counterfeit passion. At the very least, they should have the respect of their suitors — no matter what the rabble might demand.

Yes, kiss the trophy. Just be sure you mean it.
Truth is Irrelevant, if that Helps
Trump supporters, when explaining their enduring faith in our President, often point to the way he “tells it like it is.” This rationale has long been a source of wonder to me. Until recently, that is.

What had stumped me was the disconnect between their perception and the mountain of evidence showing that almost everything he says is not true. What was even more perplexing was that his supporters seem to know that he regularly gets his facts wrong. How can that be?

I have finally solved that conundrum, and now that I have, in retrospect the explanation seems so obvious. When Trumpers say he tells it like it is, they are not talking about the factual basis for his declarations. Instead they are agreeing with his conclusions. This is not about evidence, then, but about a confirmation of what they feel is true.

In this universe of “truth” dictated by feelings, the mainstream news has to be fake. That's the only way to explain why the so-called facts contradict what our feelings tell us. The team of career prosecutors investigating Trump must be part of a secret deep state conspiracy. Why else would they keep investigating collusion and criminality that we know don’t exist? Of course immigrants and elitists are working together to destroy America. Why wouldn’t they?

I’m still not sure where these people’s feelings come from. Perhaps changes in our culture have made the Trumpers uneasy. When the majority of their fellow citizens have come to accept ideas they find troubling, even threatening, we should expect them to freak out. Add to this their frustration from generations of unfulfilled political promises (unless we count Obamacare, which for some reason they don’t), and we might get a glimpse of their rage. We should not be surprised when that rage seeks out some way to feel righteous — even if it has no basis in fact. I don’t really get it, but I have to acknowledge that it exists.

Even if I can’t fully empathize with their anger, however, at least now I can stop trying to make sense of their thought process. There isn’t one. It is their emotions we need to contend with, not their tortured logic.

I wish I found that realization more comforting.
F**k!
You see f**k in print a lot these days. It used to be spelled “f—k” or sometimes “f__k”, but because it’s thought to be so vulgar, so obscene, the whole word is rarely seen or heard. Up until recently, it was spelled “f___” in an even sterner attempt to honor civility and good taste. The K, apparently, was thought to bring the reader dangerously close to the actual expletive. “____“ has also been an option, though that choice requires parenthetical elaborations such as “a harsh vulgarity” or “a four-letter-word” or some such prim phraseology.

“The F-word” still enjoys wide usage for this purpose, as does “F-bomb” and ponderous evasions like ‘rhymes with mukluk.” For those of you who don’t know, by the way, the word we’re figleafing here is “fuck.”

F**k is an old, if not honorable, word, but only in the last decade has it gotten the attention it deserves. F**king, it should be mentioned, is a very common practice among humans, and it is certainly not obscene in and of itself. Even so, it didn’t appear in the Oxford English Dictionary until 1972. Even now it is kept hidden in most public reporting when the usage is thought to be gratuitous (as in “that’s fucking gratuitous, dude”).

F**k has been getting a lot of play recently, mostly in connection with politics. Robert De Niro, for example, shouted “Fuck Trump!” from the stage at this year’s Tony Awards. That event brought on a storm of controversy. Since Bob’s usage was anything but gratuitous, many outlets printed the word (as I just did) or said it out loud. The nut of the controversy, however, was not the word itself but the effectiveness of the usage. Many thought that throwing the F-bomb was counter-productive and gave Trump a rare chance to seize the high moral ground in our political discourse. Rather than winning support for De Niro’s sentiment, the epithet was dismissed by critics as simply cursing to the choir.

Last week another F-bomb dropped after the murder of five journalists at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland. Trump (or at least his twitter feed) responded to the killings with boiler plate condolences about “our thoughts and prayers.” One survivor, apparently unimpressed, shot back that he "didn’t give a fuck” about the President’s thoughts and prayers. This usage hasn’t been critiqued in the same way, perhaps because it is not a direct ad hominem attack. Instead, it calls attention to the shameless hypocrisy of our leader, who regularly refers to the press as “enemies of the people.” The “f**k” in this case (if my outrage detector is functioning properly) was deemed acceptable.

I have tried to be scrupulous within this essay in the use of f**k and its derivatives. I wanted to hold the line against language that might offend you while exploring what the f**k is going on with the word fuck.

Maybe my effort is a waste of time. There was a time when uttering a public F-bomb would draw hard looks or even a punch in the nose. They’re raining down everywhere these days, and rarely get more than a shrug. Gratuitous usage has expanded into overuse. Even on news websites the word is used freely, particularly in sports sections. Sure, it’s vulgar, but it appears to have lost its status as an obscenity. So why try to keep the barn door closed if the f**k has already escaped?

I don’t know whether to lament the coarsening of our culture or celebrate our liberation from the taste nazis. I guess I will simply continue to walk the ever-shifting line between politeness common usage. At least I will be not participating in its overuse, which is an obscenity to me no matter what the word.
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Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon