Warning: If you are easily offended, please keep reading :-D
|Spartacus's pre-solicitation breakfast|
Last night, while we were waiting in MoJo's for our pizza to arrive, Spartacus casually mentioned that he'd been solicited by a prostitute less than an hour before.
"Really?!" I responded, impressed by his revelation. The visuals of their imagined interaction were strangely delightful, irresistible even, and I made no attempt whatsoever at concealing my curiosity.
First of all, who knew there were ladies of the night working the mid-afternoon shift in downtown Decatur, known locally as "Dick-Hater" because of its lesbian demography? Secondly, I find him über-desirable, so why wouldn't another woman? I have no shame in admitting that I'd spent all morning lusting after my own husband, purposely trailing behind him as we crossed the street into the breakfast cafe, just so I could admire his butt and legs in those cargo pants he wears so well.
Pressing for more information, I quizzed him. "Where were you when this happened? What'd she look like? How was she dressed?"
Clearly not sharing my fascination, he gave me the skinny. He'd been out all afternoon, running errands for his upcoming business trip, and when he stopped by the CVS drugstore in downtown Decatur, a "beat down" looking woman approached him, suggesting they "get together." Not exactly the exotic, thigh high boots and mini-dress clad vixen I'd envisioned. Wa-waaaaaaaah! *sad trombone*
|Us, after stopping off for a quickie. Yeah, that's how we roll.|
"Well," I laughed, "it's a good thing I'd just given you a nice blow job; otherwise, you might have taken her up on that offer." Exchanging knowing glances of carnal recall, we dove into our pizza, a fitting end to a lazy Saturday spent making love and discussing the perils of legislated morality.
Our discussion started Friday night with Paula Deen's "n-word" scandal. Arguably the most controversial word in American English, "nigger" is simultaneously associated with hatred and freedom of expression. Using it in one context makes you a bigot; in another, you're a rap star. It's also commonly used as a casual greeting among certain age groups. Depending upon your upbringing, social class, and threshold for feeling offended, this word typically evokes pretty strong opinions and reactions, unless you're one of "those" (like me) who doesn't believe words and symbols have inherent power.
Patti Smith's brilliant song of rebellion: "Rock'n'Roll Nigger
|Me, indulging in a little self-expression after being audited by the IRS|
Personally, I find the whole "if you're not outraged, you're not paying attention" movement disturbing. Intended to raise awareness and combat ignorance and intolerance, it's devolved into witch-hunting, a modern day Spanish Inquisition that threatens individual freedoms more than it protects them. But, then again, the self-righteous have always loved a good crucifixion, haven't they? They're functioning under the assumption that sitting in judgment of everyone else puts them a little bit closer to God.
Here's what I think. Designating words as "bad" or "good, stereotyping groups of people, moralizing for others, believing you're right and everyone else is wrong, and being offended by just about anything and everything is what's outrageous. Submitting to the tyranny of ideology is what's outrageous. Accepting society's mob mentality is what's outrageous. As you might have guessed, I am not a fan of political correctness, either. Sugar-coated euphemisms aren't particularly helpful or meaningful in the fight against racism, sexism, or classism. You can't candy an abscess.
The worst thing that's ever happened to mankind was its break with Nature. Segregating ourselves from the natural order of the universe necessitated myths to explain it all, mostly because "I don't know" became such a scary monster. We traded the wonder of not knowing for the indifference of omniscience. Classification was born, and with it, moral judgments, laws, and expectations. Darkness and light became black against white, and values became more valuable than individuality, and sometimes even life itself. Pretzel logic is incompatible with free thought. No wonder it can't get its head around free speech.
|Wonder if this is illegal in the state of Georgia?|
By and large, we choose our battles, whatever it is that we find immoral or offensive. We've criminalized all sorts of so-called immoral behaviors, namely sexuality and drug use. But, just because something's illegal doesn't make it immoral. For instance, prior to 1998, fellatio--even between married couples--was illegal under the state of Georgia's sodomy laws, a felony punishable by 1-20 years in prison. Yikes! Twenty years in the hole for a consensual blow job? The morality police have no idea what they've been missing in my bedroom! Shhhh.
|Bananas: the naughtier fruit?|
Certainly, there are actions that necessitate criminalization. Behaviors such as murder, rape, torture, enslavement, and physical and psychological abuse deprive others of their life or liberty and are unacceptable any way you slice them. But, do attitudes always translate into behaviors? Are words the same as actions? If I don't approve of what you have to say, does it follow that what you've said is immoral? If that's the case, then no one in the human race is above reproach. Who's to judge what's off color in the first place? My guess is that we'd all have been a lot better off had we just minded our own business to begin with.
Condemning Paula Deen as a racist for having uttered the same word that's currently glorified by the music industry is not only irrational, it threatens free society. Seriously, before the news of her lawsuit broke, no one seemed particularly concerned with her personal prejudices. Would society function more smoothly and fairly if we abandoned our current legal system to side with the court of public opinion? Somehow, I doubt it. Some of us really like making mountains out of molehills. Legislating morality hasn't made the root causes of intolerance or hatred disappear; they always resurface in another disguise. It's like putting a Band-aid on gangrene, hoping it'll heal.
|Offensive or silly? (Fun times during anesthesia residency)|
As a writer and an artist, I value the individuality of others and their freedom of expression as much as I value my own. What moves or repulses me might affect you differently. In the words of Paula Deen, "I can't, myself, determine what offends another person." I have the distinct feeling that I am in the minority on this issue. A fellow blogger, known for his special (and often brilliant) brand of crassness, once became so frustrated over his failed attempts to get under my skin that he exclaimed, "Old woman, is there nothing that offends you?!" Not hardly. Am I too nonjudgmental? Or have I finally just learned to let things that bother me roll off my back?
|Spartacus, defensively offended|
Before we start censoring words and attitudes, maybe we should ask ourselves if we're really willing to live in a police state. We've already had a taste of state-sponsored terrorism with the NSA's invasion of privacy debacle. If we criminalize speech, we may as well just invite Johnny Law into our bedrooms to join us for a threesome. By accepting anything less than absolute freedom of speech, we're giving our own freedom away. There's a good bit of truth and wisdom in the saying, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." And having a sense of humor goes a long way, too. People who take themselves too seriously rarely (if ever) have one, which is why they're always defensively offended.
Not being outraged doesn't mean I'm apathetic. It's just not how I want to spend my energy. I'm minding my own business; now, why don't you be sweet and mind yours? :-)