- The Washington Times - Monday, July 28, 2008

The Rev. Sandra Butler-Truesdale, of the District, has heard enough cussing to last her a lifetime, so she’s doing something about it.

“I came from a generation in which people respected themselves, their elders and their children. Cussing has almost become a language of the norm,” said Mrs. Butler-Truesdale, who last week began her quest for civility at 14th and U streets Northwest, one of the city’s most hardscrabble corners.

“It’s about education and talking to people about their self-esteem and why they cuss,” she said while passing out fliers at the Emma Mae Gallery inside the Frank D. Reeves Municipal Center. “So far people have been very receptive.”

Among the first to receive an “Improve Your Vocabulary, Respect Yourself, Stop the Profanity, Respect Your History” flier was Rosine Siaka, a special police officer at the center.

Miss Siaka, a 36-year-old from Cameroon, said people regularly curse at her while she is on the job, which she finds shocking because profanity is rarely heard in her culture and not permitted in her home.

“Profanity is the last word for us to use,” she said. “And when I have to be around profanity I don’t like it.”

Mrs. Butler-Truesdale said she is most disappointed that other black people rely too much on profanity instead of expanding their vocabulary.

Others have taken bolder steps.

The New York City Council last year voted 49-0 in favor of a symbolic moratorium on the “N” word.

The moratorium was proposed by council member Leroy Comrie. His spokesman, Rance Huff, said Mr. Comrie “represents a district where lots of participants in the civil rights movement live and it’s distressing to see so many people blatantly using the ‘N’ word without knowing the history behind it.”

Much of the blame is placed upon rap and hip-hop musicians.

“While the media is a great way of spreading such words, TV and radio are not interactive,” said Anna Trester, assistant linguistics director at Georgetown University.

Jim Zorn, a Christian and the Washington Redskins new head coach, has a campaign against swearing that begins with him.

“I have used a curse word before and I have muttered a couple of curse words under my breath,” he said. “But I don´t feel that I need to communicate with my players or family by cursing. I am not St. Jim, or anything like that, and I don’t try to berate players by getting in their face and, for emphasis, cussing them out.”

Other leaders also have tried to restore civility to often-divisive partisan politics.

In 2004, Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, called for civility and respect during the middle of his only term, after repeated battles with the Democrat-controlled General Assembly.

Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, opened the 2008 session with a request for compromise and civility, but his vision of “One Maryland” with Democratic and Republican lawmakers working together already had started to crumble.

A 15-year-old from South Pasadena, Calif., McKay Hatch, recently started an anti-cussing club at his high school and nocussing.com. He also persuaded the city’s mayor to declare March 3 through 7 “No cussing week.”

McKay said he rarely heard anyone use profanity in elementary school, and was puzzled by his middle-school peers using such words freely.

“When I first got to middle school I thought that’s what you had to do to fit in or be cool,” McKay said. “I didn’t like it so I told my friends, ‘If you want to hang out with me, you can’t cuss.’”

McKay’s efforts won him friends and garnered him support by 45 club members and 25,000 online members worldwide.

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