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Column: Should we care when politicians degrade others?

January 9, 2019

If we only listened to the expressions of biased news publications and conservative Americans, we would learn that if a politician is not Caucasian, wealthy or male, then their voice is meaningless.

Michigan Democrat Rep. Rashida Tlaib made headlines Jan. 3, following her speech at a reception for the MoveOn campaign. During her speech, she recited a conversation she had had with her son after winning the Democratic nomination for the U.S. House of Representatives seat from Michigan’s 13th congressional district.

“And when your son looks at you and says, 'Mama look, you won. Bullies don't win,' and I said, 'Baby, they don't,' because we're gonna go in there and we're going to impeach the motherf****r.”

According to MoveOn’s website, members are “committed to an inclusive and progressive future. We envision a world marked by equality, sustainability, justice and love. And we mobilize together to achieve it.”

The evocative language used to encourage the impeachment of President Donald Trump during Tlaib’s speech caught the attention of many news publications across the nation. Even Trump himself caught wind of the derogatory language that was in favor of his impeachment, remarking that the language used by Tlaib was “disgraceful.” 

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 Tlaib was justified in what she chose to say. 

Often times people focus on the connotation of a word rather than the reason or purpose behind it. In Tlaib’s case, her words were backed by pure emotion and passion, as she was conveying an important message about Trump’s role. Her perception of Trump emulates that of many liberal Americans. 

Many argue that a political figure should not use profanity to bear their message — I disagree. Tlaib’s choice of words can be considered contemptuous, but she should not be condemned for her language, as she was not at an official political event nor was her speech formally broadcasted, rather shared by a Twitter user. 

My question for those degrading Tlaib’s character and ability to lead is: How has your perception of Trump changed after each time he has said something controversial or demeaning? 

Trump is the first president audacious enough to degrade others in a public setting, such as in front of crowds, at rallies and during presidential speeches. He even floods his social media with deficient examinations of others’ integrity and character. 

One of the most memorable comments made by Trump during his presidency this far was during the NFL protests, led by former San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick when players of the league refused to stand for the National Anthem in protest of police brutality and escalation of the Black Lives Matter movement. 

"Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son-of-a-bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!'" Trump said at a rally in 2017. 

Why is it that when our president, the head of state and government of the United States of America, uses derogatory language towards another person or group of people it is often overlooked? 

It is important to remember that as a wealthy, Caucasian, reformed Protestant man, Trump has an advantage over most. When it comes to receiving criticism for his commentary, Trump will often make headlines temporarily, only for the disapproval of his choice of words or actions to slowly fade into oblivion, but not every politician receives parallel treatment. 

Days later, Tlaib, the first Palestinian-American woman in Congress, continues to face backlash for a single comment made at an affair independent from her political responsibilities. This promotes bigotry. 

Tlaib was not wrong to use an expletive to convey a clear message for her hopes of the status of the government whereas President Donald Trump, who uses inappropriate language frequently to demean others, is morally wrong. Trump speaks negatively for the wrong reasons. There is no passion included within his amateurish claims.

Emily Ludwa is a weekly columnist for The State News.

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