It’s not exactly news that I have been sending out far fewer columns of late. I’ve struggled with this decision because I love staying in close contact with my readers, and appreciate so much the emails I receive afterward. I miss that. But I also needed to stay tightly focused on finishing my next book, The Skeptic and the Rabbi: Falling in Love with Faith, which will be published in a mere four weeks! I am very excited about this major milestone in my writing career, and hope you will like it, review it online, You can download an excerpt from it from the link above.
Many of you have already pre-ordered the book, and I thank you for that! For those who have not, please consider ordering from a “real” bookstore, the kind you have to drive or walk to. Yes, online sales and Amazon rankings are important, but lets support bricks-and-mortar bookstores so that we do not lose them altogether. Also, indie bookstores are extremely supportive of the authors of She Writes Press, my publisher, and it’s only right to support them in return. Not sure where the closest indie-owned bookstore is near you? Find one through IndieBound.org. Yes, my book will be distributed in Canada as well, and an e-version will be available in a few weeks.
L.A. Book Launch Party — September 10!
If you are in the Los Angeles area, I’d love to see you at my book launch party at The Community Shul on September 10, 8 p.m. You can buy books there, and I’ll be talking about the book as well as reading a few excerpts. Book signing and refreshments to follow!
If you hop over to my website, you will see some other changes as well, including a link to where I’ve had other recent articles, such as in The Chicago Tribune and Aish.com. I’ve also begun ghostwriting and book editing and enjoying working with my clients very much. If you have a writing project that requires guidance and an expert editorial eye and sharp writing, please contact me.
Catch up on my book reviews on Goodreads
Just a reminder that I am adding new book reviews on my Goodreads page frequently. Recent favorite reads have been “A Man Called Ove,” “Britt-Marie Was Here,” and “The Color of Water.” And I hope you are a member of Goodreads, because I will be offering a second giveaway for my book that will begin August 23 and run through September 2.
Yes, a new column is here, too
Last week I couldn’t resist weighing in on the micro-tenure of Anthony Scarmucci as Communications Director in the Trump administration, and what it might say about our society’s potty-mouth tendencies.
This column appeared in the Jewish Journal. I hope you’ll add your own comments on the paper’s website and share it on your social media networks.
Anthony Scaramucci’s Profanities – and Ours
The ouster of trash-talking Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci from the Trump White House reinforces one of my strongest beliefs, which is that foul language is still foul.
Scaramucci’s 11-day tenure may have set a welcome record for the fastest in, fastest out of a supremely unqualified White House staffer. His tirade against chief of staff Reince Priebus and chief strategist Steve Bannon, during an interview with Ryan Lizza of The New Yorker, contained enough expletives to blow up a Trump Tower, and was published last Thursday on the magazine’s website with no tidying up of the expletives.
I imagine that aside from his NC-17 language, Scaramucci would still have been kicked out after the interview broke. He revealed himself as a man of incredibly poor judgment and an almost maniacal meanness. This guy was going to be a Communications Director? Wow, just wow.
Still, let’s face it: expletives in everyday talk have become epidemic. The definition of vulgarity has been defined increasingly down. I hope that the egregiousness of the Scaramucci episode might be a wake-up call that language still matters.
Admittedly, I’ve always been sensitive to harsh language, even though I grew up in a home where the worst expletive ever uttered – and that only in extremis, such as when the UCLA Bruins had just fumbled the ball at the ten-yard-line in the fourth quarter – now barely rates an ellipsis after the first letter in print. I already miss those fast-disappearing ellipses, which now appear as almost quaint.
When I first wrote about the topic of profanity about a dozen years ago, offering tip sheets to parents and teachers to help prevent or discourage swearing among kids, the studies I found about the impact on profanity almost uniformly agreed: the more people swore, the more they became desensitized to the inherent anger in those words, and the angrier they became as people. People who swore without restraint were usually seen by others as less intelligent, disciplined, and unhappier than their cleaner-talking friends and neighbors. Revisiting this topic just last week, I discovered that newer studies dismiss profanity’s desensitizing impact. Instead, researchers pat profanity-users on the head. Swearing is just cathartic, they say. It feels good, and is therefore good for you.
There’s a time and a place for profanity. I like the old-fashioned times and places: the battlefield, the moment when you accidentally drop a heavy book on your foot, and “Ouch!” just won’t cut it. Those days are gone, but everyone knows that language counts, it’s just that we’ve become oddly selective about what words and phrases cause outrage. On college campuses, you can hardly say the word “white” or “American” or “rape” without mass fainting spells and demands for punishment for the speaker. Racial epithets, which are terrible and dehumanizing, are still somehow okay if used by someone of the same race. But we are also euphemism-happy, calling a used car “pre-owned” and referring to a job firing as a “department realignment.” That politician didn’t lie, she “misspoke.” And on and on.
The free-flying and promiscuous use of foul language – as verbs, nouns, adjectives, as anything and therefore as nothing – is only making our uncivil society less civil than ever. And our kids are listening, copying our actions and our words. Do we really want to live in a society where everyone is swearing all the time? If we do, what words will we have left to express true outrage, anger, fear or frustration? They’ve all been used up, empty and yet coarse at the same time.
How ironic that we are increasingly careful about what we put into our mouths, fearful of GMOs, pesticides, additives, and food dyes, but heedless of the words we are spraying like verbal toxins into the atmosphere? If we are what we eat, aren’t we also what we speak?
Judaism recognizes this truth. The laws of lashon hara, literally “bad speech,” are vast and intricate. They cover everything from implied insults to name-calling and certainly any outright profane language. The laws are so sweeping because it’s our speech that makes us human, and our words can hurt, or our words can heal.
Isn’t it time to rethink our promiscuous use of profanity?