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The "F" Word

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Cross-posted from Mike Malloy


(image by Flickr: fPat's Photostream)


President Obama has a problem. He can't stop using the "F" word and it's starting to ruffle feathers on all sides of the political spectrum. Before you get too excited, the word in question is "folks." Obama is as enamored of that term as Raisin Brain was with "nukulur," or "misunderestimate." He uses it a lot. The Washington Post detailed how frequently the President used the term in recent years:

"He (Obama) makes his case on immigration: 'What I've also said is if we're going to go after folks who are here illegally, we should do it smartly and go after folks who are criminals, gang bangers.'

"On Benghazi, he reminded Americans of his longstanding plan. '[O]ne of the things that I've said throughout my presidency is when folks mess with Americans, we go after them.'

"Obama discussed income inequality -- 'there are folks at the top who are doing better than ever' -- but 'we understand that some folks are going to earn more than others.' But he was fighting to give 'hardworking folks' a pay increase. Folks like the 'folks who are cooking the meals of our troops, or washing their dishes, or cleaning their clothes.'

"Obama's weekly address {August 2011} was about putting Americans (American folks) back to work. He wanted to 'see folks in Korea driving Fords, Chevys and Chryslers,' he said. He wanted folks in Washington to put country before party, lessons he learned from having 'shaken hands with folks outside machine shops and churches, corner stores and farms.'"

Okay -- we get it. Folks is his favorite colloquialism. It implies a plurality of human beings. The word can be distinguished from the similar word "people" by its inherent familiarity and casual association. Using the word "folks" conveys an intimacy with the group in reference, whereas the word "people" is more formal and not as warm and fuzzy-feeling. And that's the problem. When the President mentioned, almost casually, in a news conference that "we tortured some folks" during the Bush Crime Family reign, both his supporters and his haters cringed.

While it is praise-worthy that the President actually admitted that detainees were, indeed, tortured by the US government, calling these victims "folks" is as callous and demeaning as Chucklenuts' playing golf in 2002, with a reporter nearby, and quipping to the camera: "I call upon all nations to do everything they can to stop these terrorist killers. Thank you. Now, watch this drive."

We expect more from Obama. The torture victims were people. Real, live human beings, not just some "folks." Not the folks you know down the street, or the hard-working folks waiting for a pay raise, or the folks in Korea who might buy a Chevy. Leonard Pitts, Jr., writing for The Miami Herald put it this way:

"'We tortured some folks.'

"What's next? 'He raped a chick?' 'They stabbed a dude?'

"Granted, it's a relatively minor point. But to whatever degree phrasing is a window into mindset, the president's phrasing was jarring. It is, however, what he said next that we are gathered here to discuss.

"Obama, speaking to reporters Friday, invoked the atmosphere after Sept. 11 to explain why the CIA, ahem, tortured some folks. He reminded us that we were all terrified that more attacks were imminent, and our national security people were under great pressure to prevent them. So while what they did was wrong, said Obama, 'It's important for us not to feel too sanctimonious in retrospect about the tough job that those folks had.'

"In other words, we were all scared spitless, so it's ... understandable, if not precisely condonable, that the CIA behaved in ways that betrayed our national values."

So kudos to the President for announcing, without question, one of the worst Bush-era war crimes. But adding the caveat, as Pitts explains, that the US was somehow justified in its torture of innocent detainees because we were so terrified after the 9-11 attacks, undermines his otherwise bold admission.

And that may be more upsetting than using the F-word.

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www.mikemalloy.com

Kathy never expected a career in radio as a talk show producer. Born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, Kathy was completing her nursing degree when in 2001 - in an emergency - she was asked to fill in as the producer of Mike's program. Within a few (more...)
 

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The letter "W" - "W"e tortured some folks", Obama ... by Lance Ciepiela on Thursday, Aug 7, 2014 at 9:52:09 PM
Given that the majority no longer speak proper Eng... by Doc McCoy on Friday, Aug 8, 2014 at 2:41:00 AM
I agree. Referring to torture victims as "folks" ... by Janet Nagel on Friday, Aug 8, 2014 at 1:39:33 PM
Like we need linguistic evidence that this preside... by John Rachel on Friday, Aug 8, 2014 at 10:58:08 PM