Letter: Political morality, degrading language cannot be objective
By Alex Brooks
Brooks is 2013 graduate of Michigan State and a former opinion writer for The State News.
I am writing in response to an Op-Ed titled "Should we care when politicians degrade others?" because there are a few important distinctions worth pointing out. The author spends a good chunk of the piece correctly pointing out that President Donald Trump uses gross language. She then makes the case that, "Freedom of speech, under the First Amendment of the Constitution, includes 'the right to use certain offensive words and phrases to convey political messages,' meaning (Michigan Democrat Rep. Rashida) Tlaib was justified in what she chose to say."
This second statement is wrong. Tlaib has the RIGHT to say what she said (Undoubtedly as does Trump) but that does not mean she is JUSTIFIED in doing so, as the author stated. This is a very important distinction. The author justifies the approval of Tlaib's message by writing "her words were backed by pure emotion and passion, as she was conveying an important message about Trump’s role." Summarized version: The author agrees with Tlaib’s message and her fire, therefore Tlaib can say what she wants free of consequence.
The author continues to write, "Trump speaks negatively for the wrong reasons. There is no passion included within his amateurish claims." Summarized version: Because Trump is immoral, his language is unjustified.
This view is deeply problematic. We as a society cannot objectively approve or disapprove of someone's language based on the level of passion of the individual or whether or not we deem them moral. The author labelled Tlaib as “morally right,” and therefore able to speak freely. She labelled Trump as “morally wrong” thus implying his speech should be restricted.
When it comes to politics we need consistent objective standards held by both sides. Who are the gate keepers of what is moral? Emily Ludwa, the author? Me? The news networks she labeled as biased? This is the issue. A good example: As a member of the Jewish faith, I view Tlaib as deeply immoral and believe she is likely an anti-Semite. Does my view of Tlaib’s morality trump (no pun intended) the author’s? Or vice versa? This is unsustainable at a societal level.
In summary, both Democrats and Republicans view themselves as the morally right and passionate party and we should not grant leeway to one group over the other based on subjective views. This would mean either opening the flood gates of derogatory language on both sides and deeming it fine, or we make an effort to return to “democratic norms” as Dems have been preaching since Donald Trump was elected. My vote is the latter and I urge members of the media to treat both parties with the same level of accountability.
Side note: She said “motherf****r” to her 2 young boys. Who in their right mind would think this is good parenting?