Cookie Schwaeber-Issan

The Other F Words

In some ways, growing up in the 50s feels like a century ago.  As I look back, I can remember three things, in particular, that were rare and almost unheard of – divorce, tattoos and profanity.

Most of us had two parents, happy or unhappy, who chose to stay together.  Tattoos were scarcely seen, and exclusive only to men, but, perhaps, one of the greatest changes in society has been the degrading level of our everyday language.

Words which were, not so long ago, considered crude, shameful and vulgar are now thrown around without a thought and without regard to the tender ears of the listener.  They’re heard in our music, our films, entertainment and even from ordinary people who have adopted what they apparently now view as normal and acceptable jargon.  Vulgarity has, unquestionably, invaded the English language with a vengeance.

Venturing a guess where it all started, I probably would have to look no further than Hollywood and other celebrities, be they singers, athletes, politicians or other famous personalities.  Through their flagrant use of nasty terms, the harshness and shock-value of those words, little by little, began to be neutralized as a clever conditioning set in.

For some, the use of these words was meant to be a sign of coolness or sophistication; much like smoking in the 1960s.  For others, using profanity was a way to fit in and gain acceptance.  Whatever the reason, one thing is for sure – hardly anyone winces anymore when vulgar language is spewed out like sewage these days.

While its effect has elicited everything from crude humor to a type of worldly coarseness, its popularity and frequent use cannot ever compete with good manners, politeness, refinement and poise which may be seen as outdated but which, nonetheless, bears witness to an irreplaceable quality and respectability.  Everyone knows this, and that is often evidenced when television personalities feel the need to apologize after having used profanity which they instinctively know is still not widely accepted by the general public.

Yet, many films have no qualms in generously inserting vulgar speech even when portraying life 30, 50 or even 100 years ago.  It’s as if they want us to believe that this type of language always existed.  However, those of us over the age of 50 know, all too well, that mainstream society did not speak with the kind of vulgarity that is being portrayed back then. Regrettably, it’s those same crude words to which we are being exposed on a daily basis.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who is sick of it and rejects the notion that this sunken level is supposed to be the new normal.  Vulgarity is neither inspiring nor refreshing.  It is, often, rather a deplorable lack of articulate and pleasant speech which, sadly, seems to be an infectious malady all too frequently suffered by many of today’s 20-40 crowd.

These days, one is hard-pressed to watch the evening news without being exposed to a barrage of bleeps which attempt to block out the intense vulgarity of street anarchists who hold authority, order and respectability with great contempt.  For them, it doesn’t make sense to persuade an opposing side with cogent and sound arguments.  That would require too much hard work and rational thought.  Why put in the effort when a weaponized tongue can frighten others into submission or silence?

There is no question that profanity, vulgarity and coarse speaking is designed to be an effective bullying tactic which is meant to shut down opponents.  Yet that’s not its only purpose.  Seeping into our culture through pop music, social media and other outlets, there is almost a coordinated effort to change the tone of society, making it tougher, uglier and ruder.  Almost anywhere you travel in the globe, you will see the most disgusting graffiti scrawled throughout once beautiful cities, again, in an attempt to leave its grotesque mark on all of us.

While this has become an ever-spreading virus which is trying to infect humanity, it’s still gratifying to hear something in stark contrast to all of this.

It was only a couple of weeks ago when I happened to catch three other words used by 2021 Olympic gold medalist Tamyra Mensah-Stock who claimed she drew inspiration from them.  They were “Faith, Family and Friends.”  In fact, it was at the Fox Nation Patriot Awards ceremony that she credited those three words as being responsible for all she has accomplished.  She said her parents, one of whom is from Ghana, instilled a love of country and patriotism deep inside of her.

Her excitement and enthusiasm for life, along with her positive attitude, seemed to be such a departure from recent sentiments of other well-known celebrities who now look at their country with embarrassment and shame.

So what is it about those three words –”Faith, Family and Friends” which seem to make all the difference?  Faith keeps us humble, giving us the knowledge that we were actually created and not, at all, in charge as we suppose.  It is also through life’s trials and difficulties that we are able to acknowledge our many limitations and cry out to One, more powerful who ultimately has the last say.  Family and Friends keep us grounded, supported and accepted when we need those things the most. They also hold us to accountability and correction – something we desperately need in order to be considerate, productive and inspiring human beings in a world which is rife with selfishness, chaos and insanity.

Faith, Family and Friends are the stabilizing factors which provide us with balance, strength and well-being, all of which are essential in order to be a whole, secure, generous, happy and fulfilled person.

Such individuals know the value of respect for one’s self, respect for others and the esteem which accompanies a person of high moral character and ethics.  These principles have not and will never go out of style even though some have done their best to replace them with inferior counterfeits which are not worthy of praise on any level.

Returning to a world that values those three words is not dependent upon anyone except ourselves.  Society must not be defined and characterized by a sub-class of ungrateful and disrespectful malcontents who apparently weren’t ever shown the value of Faith, Family and Friends during their formative years.

It is up to us to take back society with the compelling and inspiring way of life which leads to personal contentment, appreciation of small things, rejection of greed and excess and the knowledge that we have the ability to positively affect others in so many ways especially during these very dark and challenging times when so much feels wrong in our world.

It’s never too late to rediscover the blessings of Faith, Family and Friends as an antidote to whatever troubles you.  In fact, I’m quite sure that nothing else will ever come close to the genuine elements we need each day in order to rise above the fray.

It sure beats the anger, the misery and the hate that we are seeing these days from those who are missing those powerful forces which can bring them a much better and fuller life for however many years they have on this earth.

About the Author
A former Jerusalem elementary and middle-school principal and the granddaughter of European Jews who arrived in the US before the Holocaust. Making Aliyah in 1993, she is retired and now lives in the center of the country with her husband.
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