Thursday, December 19, 2013

What's in a Name? Depends on Who's Calling It.

Over this past week I packed and cleaned and wore myself out getting ready for a long trip toward the places where I'm hoping merry holiday spirits abide. It would be a cruel trick if they didn't.

During our long, long travels we got caught in not one but two snowstorms.  We spent three nights on the road when one night in a motel would have been more than enough.  When we could finally travel we had to drive well under the speed limit watching for black ice.  Here in Michigan we try not to think about the fact that winter won't even officially begin until Saturday.  We are sick of it already.  (Oh, I know--you New Yorkers have it much tougher, even though--may I remind you again--nearly every storm you get has already come roaring through our neck of the woods.)

You can see where I'm at these days, so forgive me if I don't give two shits about what somebody I don't even know is saying out loud, even if it offends more than half the country's tender sensibilities.

Megyn Kelly said on Fox News that there is no question that Santa and Jesus were two white guys.  This was in answer to an article in Slate by Aisha Harris, who wrote that maybe Santa shouldn't be an old white man anymore; maybe he should be a penguin, instead.

Maybe it was just my mood--I was looking for something to laugh about--but I found the whole thing hilarious.  In fact, I must remember to thank Megyn for putting a ray of sunshine in what was otherwise a bleak couple of days.  The fact that she's not the brightest bulb on the tree was a foregone conclusion even before she said what she said.  Nothing has changed, except that, honest to God, I got an email asking me to sign a petition to get her off the air!  Are they nuts?  For what?  Being so successfully bad at what she does?

And then there's Phil Robertson, that long-bearded Duck Dynasty guy:  I'm betting he was an established oddball long before he said what he said about gays, the bible, anuses and vaginas.  I caught about 20 minutes of that show once, and after the first 10 minutes of it nothing any of them might say would ever surprise me.  But yesterday I got an email from a friend asking me to sign a petition to demand that A&E come to their senses and put the guy back on the air. If the petition hadn't suggested that the suspension was blatantly anti-Christian, I might have been tempted to sign it.  Nobody should be forced out of a job over a few rancid words.  Even that guy.

When MSNBC fired Martin Bashir for saying something truly foul about what should happen to Sarah Palin in order to make her understand how terrible slavery really was, I objected to that firing, too, even though I thought Martin went way over any decent line.

If MSNBC had wanted to fire Alec Baldwin for dismal ratings they were well within their rights--his ratings were dismal--but they chose instead to tell the public he was fired for uttering a homophobic slur while lashing out at a photographer.  It's not as if MSNBC didn't know going in that Baldwin was a loose cannon.  That must have been part of his appeal for them.  In fact, his (or their) decision to play it straight (as it were) is probably what killed the show.  He was no Jack Donaghy.  He was barely even Alec Baldwin.

None of these people are politicians or leaders.  What they say has no impact on policy-making; nor does it change anything for any stranger who might feel victimized by their words.  We don't know those people and they don't know us.  I'm not defending any of them--every one of them said something stupid--but how sensitive is too sensitive?  Is a single utterance reason enough to cause someone to lose a job?

After a successful career spanning decades, the ever-entertaining Howard Cosell found himself at the center of controversy for directing the term "little monkey" to a black player during a televised football game in 1983.  Cosell, clearly no racist, had used the term at least three other times within a span of about 10 years.  He refused to back down, and left broadcasting at the end of that  season.

Thirty years later, we're still looking for insults inside stupid sentences.  It's as if we've never experienced a comments section.  

Read the comment section of any article smacking of even a hint of controversy and you'll see name-calling soaring to spectacularly vile heights. Some of it comes after a public figure has done the wordy deed and the commenters respond in kind, as if they're competing to see how ugly it can get.

Some participants in the comment sections have a talent for it; the vast majority don't.  F-bombs and its various variations dropping all over the place, as if there is no word it can't replace.  MFing L-bombs lobbed at even little old liberal ladies (just saying. . .).

So here I'll make a confession.  I hate the F-word.  I don't just hate it, I despise it.  I have never used it, never written it, and even now, when its usage is more common than breathing, it still offends me.  I grew up in a time when it was so rarely used it was shocking to hear it spoken out loud.  We saw it in writing even less. But even when it's directed at me I don't fall apart over it. What kind of sissy would I be if I went off pouting or calling for heads to roll every time I heard it used in a way that I found offensive?  (Which, for me, don't you know, would be every way.)

I was a young adult when feminism grew strong enough to become an F-word itself. I've heard it all. Words hurled at me by strangers have almost always been meaningless.  They can't hurt me unless I let them.  And why would I let them? Water off a duck's back.  Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names can never hurt me. 

And nyah nyah, you lousy cootie.


  1. As you know, I LOVE lots and lots of different F-words. Since I like alliteration, too, I frequently f***ing fling fierce fecund feminist files fully fledged flagellating fights five-times forever's worth at every farty flaccid fatted fascist florid foaming father favoring moron in sight. I don't think I would have ever developed such a f***ing filthy mouth if not for constant being told that "ladies don't use that kind of language, dear." I'm neither their 'dear', nor their "lady"… All that said, I find comments such as you speak of unspeakably vile. I like profanity as an emphasis, as a point of humor, as a shorthand even. But seeing it used as people do in defense of the indefensible? Well, yes, F*** THAT!

    As for firing people for what they say? Seems some get fired for saying whatever offends the ones with fat wallets. Some, like the Duck Dickweed Dynasy guy (not fired, merely temporarily suspended) actually SHOULD be fired because the flaming rhetoric they use actually DOES damage, because names DO hurt ---causing everything from suicide (look at rates in gay teens), to continued legal harassment basically based in religious bigotry.

    I'm disappointed that something calling itself "Arts and Entertainment" considers a bunch of yahoos famed for making something to lure a duck to its death possibly art or entertaining.
    I'm more than a bit sick of seeing hate, ignorance, and bigotry sold as EITHER religious righteousness OR entertainment. And yes, I am for not only calling that f***ing spade a shovel, but using said shovel to bury it!

  2. Lol, Labrys, I should have known! I shall forgive your F-laden alliteration because it's so damned funny! Now we find that the hillbilly yahoos are fake. What's next? They're not really. .ooooh. . . .noooo . . .Christians?

    They secretly like ducks?

    Notice that A&E doesn't call itself Arts and Entertainment anymore. That's because it's neither.

  3. Ducks are much nicer than they are; I used to have ducks and they are sweet, sweet creatures.
    I'm glad I don't pay extra for A&E, because it isn't worth it.


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