As a young person growing up “playing the dozens” was how you developed your street “cred” (credibility). The verbal battle was designed to embarrass or humiliate your opponent by insulting someone dear to him or her. In my neighborhood the highest insult to anyone would begin with, “Yo mama”. We rarely chanted, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”—–because we knew that playing the dozens almost always lead to a fight, where stones could break your bones. It was far from harmless bullying.
Last week, the king of radio bullies, Rush Limbaugh, went after someone dear to President Barack Obama, Michelle, his wife. It seems playing the dozens is fair game for this breed of political instigators. Andrew Breitbart’s website boasted a tasteless cartoon about the First Lady’s weight the week before and there seems to be a lot of partisan criticism of her efforts to fight childhood obesity. In case you may have missed Limbaugh’s comments let me reluctantly recount them—-“It doesn’t look like Michelle Obama follows her own nutrition, dietary advice. I’m trying to say that our first lady does not project the image of women that you might see on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.”
I could not determine if I was more enraged at the thought that ANY WOMAN would be judged on whether or not she meets the criteria for the Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover. Or by the hypocrisy and arrogance of someone who clearly has no appetite for nutritious cuisine or healthy eating habits. Either way the mere thought forced me to reach for beta-blockers as I felt my blood pressure rapidly elevate. Add the following comments and you know that Limbaugh albeit poorly, likes to “play the dozens”. He often refers to Michelle as Moo-chelle on the air and it is just one of the disparaging names he has created for the First Lady.
“Some people are suggesting that my comments are below the belt,” said Limbaugh. “Well, take a look at some pictures. Given where she wears her belts – she wears ’em high up there around the bust line – isn’t just about everything about her below the belt, when you look at the fashion sense she has?” OMG!! I guess he missed the First Lady on the cover of Vogue.
I realize that public figures like the First Lady expect and anticipate legitimate criticism and policy disagreements from all sides. That however does not mean that she should be fair game in political food fights or personal attacks. To their credit some Republican men, Chris Christie, New Jersey governor and Mike Huckabee former Arkansas governor have spoken out against Mr. Limbaugh’s ridiculously crude comments. I don’t suspect Mr. Limbaugh will stop his verbal assaults on Michelle Obama any time soon, there is an election next year and he recognizes the value of distraction.
On the school yard or the neighborhood stoop, “playing the dozens” is just another form of bullying. But on the political playground this kind of “dissing” can incite others to vitriolic words that are disguised as freedom of speech. Playing the dozens almost always leads to a fight. Mr. Limbaugh, your behavioral history suggests that you are not likely to put your gloves away before next November—but it seems that there are more pressing policy issues that warrant your wrath other than First Lady Michelle Obama.
Beverly L Isom