24 September 2009

The Hindenburg in Spray Paint

Tuesday’s Times-West Virginian had a raging above-the-fold story on the community’s outraged and righteous reaction to some racial graffiti spray painted on a street and parked cars. The guy who wrote the story is a very handy wordsmith who called the event “a clarion call to City Hall for action.” And even though city workers went out and cleaned up the vandalism, the reporter went on, “the ugly words’ lingering echo remains.” (The guy writes well.)

A number of community leaders, all of whom I respect, were quoted concerning the seriousness of the event and the need to take action. One individual strongly recommended “sensitivity training,” although I’m not sure who is supposed to get it, how we procure their attendance or how the message is supposed to get through to them.

Every city official who could scratch their way to a camera or a reporter’s notebook expressed his or her shock and dismay, treating the whole thing like the Hindenburg disaster, "Oh, the humanity!"

And in the meantime, some kids or young ne’er-do-well morons are sitting around drinking, smoking and laughing themselves silly over the attention their spray painting has gotten.

People: These are WORDS. When will we as a society move on? What will the milestones be?

Well, how about when we respond to graffiti by cleaning it up, painting it over and treating it as any other property crime. And when the miscreants have been to court, hey, as part of their sentence, now we have the cleaning crew ready to go for the next clean-up job that needs to be done.

Another milestone will be when we stop yakking about unity, unity, unity and start acting like we believe in it. Unity for America means a common language (that would be English), a common flag, a common nationality (American, not Irish-American, Italian-American, African-American, Asian-American, Martian-American, or any other hyphenated American) and a common purpose - Do what helps our families and neighbors.

A milestone will be when the Klan joins the Flat Earth Society in our level of respect. Another will be when criminal things done against people maliciously which cause harm will be treated as “hate crimes” because they are criminal things done against PEOPLE maliciously which cause harm. If someone has an irrational hatred based on an irrational classification, we can’t lobotomize them. But if they DO something criminal, we’ve had a legal system for the last 1000 years to deal with them.

A milestone will be when we don’t whine about what doesn’t harm us and don’t hunt for ways to be victims. If school administrators call for a prayer at some school breakfast, after breakfast someone will whisper in their ear, hey, dummy, don’t do that, rather than drag them to federal court and attempt to jail them. A milestone will be when we realize that we CAN have prayer in school. You want to pray, pray. Don’t make anybody else pray with you, but this is America, you’re free to follow God. We’d expect City Council to focus on 150 miles of leaky water lines that need replaced, and not get in a lather about things they can’t fix. A milestone will be when we cut through the crap and teach children that results count, and that we and they will not have a just society without it being a productive society and that requires responsible and productive people.

And a milestone will be that we think and reason. Words, how will be look at words?

Let me personalize this. I asked a couple of friends to insult me today, to really let it all out. With their suggestions, I synthesize that someone now writes about me, “Roger is a fat, ignorant, pompous moron, and how he ever expects to read all the books he buys is a fantasy!”

Well, that’s colorful. (Oh, I left out the REALLY colorful stuff as being unfit for general public consumption.) These are WORDS. If those words are true, they may be unpleasant, but facts are stubborn. If they are false, they are still WORDS, and if they do not cause tangible harm, they are nothing – wounded feelings don’t count. And if they are arguable, that’s the First Amendment at work. Some (newspapers, for example) have much bigger hammers with which to use words, and in our nation that’s controlled only loosely by libel laws in order to encourage free speech. So, let’s think: Is the insult to me true?

Fat - Got it in one. Facts are stubborn.

Ignorant - That’s mostly untrue, although there are some areas (e.g., popular culture, conventional etiquette) where my ignorance is breathtakingly broad. If you disagree with me (and many, many do), it’s usually because I just look at things differently. And if you’re thoughtful, I love talking about our differences.

Pompous - Not in the sense of driving a Mercedes or wearing a Brooks Brothers suit, but I speak up at inappropriate times, so this one isn’t unfair, so I guess I have to cop to this one, too.

Moron - That’ s meant in the pure epithet sense, so it’s a “sticks & stones” thing. Do I like it? No. “Sticks & stones,” it’s nothing in the real world. Being insulted isn’t pleasant, is it. But it’s still WORDS.

Books - Them's fightin' words - I'm gonna read them all if I die trying, which I probably will.

The WORD used by vandals - nigger - is an epithet. It is a word. The person/concept/thing/object it describes does not exist. It is an insult. Do we really want to honor the guys who toss that around, who deface public spaces and who cheapen public discourse by taking their idiocy seriously? Is a knucklehead with a can of spray paint stronger than our power of self-control?

Pippa passes.



Blank Field said...

I've been involved in these discussions in the past, all the Shelfers have. Some people, mostly on the distaff side, say that ill intended words hurt them, no matter how many people tell them they're just words.

Like you, I don't get it, but there it is.

Also, I just know it rankles you that Nag hates me more than he hates you. So ha ha!

Roger D. Curry said...

Bro. Bert, what gripes me is that Nag respects you enough to hurl true invective your way, but refers to me, essentially, as an ignorant hick with an unusual vocabulary. What does a guy have to do to be hated?

rosa said...

The thing is though that there are apparently millions of people offended by words and they all appear to be in positions of authority (school principals, school board leaders, college presidents), and they certainly overreact if they are parodied or insulted which then results in some student's parents suing them for infingement of First Amendment rights and so forth...which leads me to have to listen to some silly lawyer from the Ark Dept of Higher Ed blather on about case law for and hour and a half, wonder off topic, and end with the same three words I started my notes with: "USE COMMON SENSE."

doreenmary said...

Empty cans make the most noise. We can scoff at the idiocy of those participating in name calling and graffiti types of crass communication. Yet, in both contrast and likeness to that type of communication, those who have a gift of communication... who carefully choose words which eloquently convey a message (opinion) with great conviction... are often dismissed, too... by virtue of the perceived pomposity or some other complaint. Everyone is so easily offended, seems... And yet, there's a sick pleasure in all of it, no? Hence, we blog.