Thursday, July 01, 2004

The F-Word

Today's Top Story:
At the time of this posting, 860 US soldiers have died in Iraq.

(Why is this "The Top Story"?
1. Each of these soldiers died in a war that was initiated by a President who intentionally misled the American people to serve his own ends, and
2. Like Gen. Anthony Zinni, I believe that this has got to be more important than "American Idol").

Today's Feature: The F-Word

One of the big stories last week was that Vice-President Cheney had said "f___ you" to Sen. Patrick Leahy on the floor of the Senate during a photo session.

Up until that time, I didn't think I had anything in common with Cheney. Like most of my other assumptions, this one also proved to be false. But I, too, have used the f-word. I have worked in enough construction sites, factories and spent sufficient time in bars to have heard (and used) the word used in practically any context imagineable. It works well as an adjective, a verb, and a noun. It works as a descriptor of both sexual activity and pure stupidity. I even heard it dissembled on NPR last week (pre-Cheney).

But despite its increasing commonality, it is still one of the most hurtful words that one human being can direct at another. I know. That's how I used it last.

I was in a private conversation, behind closed doors, with my boss, a man I have worked with, traveled with, and shared a few beers with for six years. He had asked my opinion on why an internal supplier organization was experiencing a high rate of turnover among its employees, causing them to be unable to meet their commitments to our group. My opinion was that the management of the group in question had put costs first, ahead of the welfare of their employees. So I said to my boss, "they basically told their employees 'f___ you, we're taking your jobs offshore', leaving them with no sense that their skills and efforts were valued, let alone with any sense of job security. Why would anybody stay in an environment where you were treated so poorly?"

Was it appropriate for me to use that word? Maybe...maybe not. Would I use it in a public meeting? Absolutely not. Would I direct that epithet at a colleague or an employee? Only if I wanted to be shown the door.

Used indirectly, the f-word has broad, if coarse, descriptive powers. But when it is directed at another human being, it is an unconscionable slur - the worst type of insult. If I used it directly against a colleague or employee, I would be swiftly terminated, especially if I expressed no remorse, like Dick Cheney did.

That's what Dick Cheney deserves. The good news is that we have the opportunity to fire him come November.

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