With new instantaneous access to the unfettered minds of today’s youth and even our elders we are being drawn back into the argument of what is appropriate to say in a society that prides itself on freedom of speech.
Schools have historically been places where the restrictions of language have long been instilled in the children of America. Teachers can reprimand students for use of vulgar language. I am not an advocate for allowing children in elementary school to swear in sheer abundance as if they were Louis C. K. or Daniel Tosh.
However, if we truly hold to the idea of freedom of speech is it not then wrong to use the insinuations that certain words are worse than others?
There are definitely words that hold within their spelling and pronunciation the key to causing an almost visceral reaction to those who hear the words.
Almost everyone can remember the first time they uttered the dreaded “F” word. The first time I used that word I was scolded by my parents. Despite the scolding my parents gave me, I still use the word with startling frequency.
The word has become engrained in our culture; our movies use it to measure ratings. We get parental advisory labels for artists who choose to include it in their music.
Yet, despite the constant representation of the word in our media we still shun it as if it is too taboo to mention in polite society.
However the abundance of a word does not mean it is safe to say or hear. When a word is used to attack individuals or a group, which is when it should be taken into consideration for the repercussions of our words.
As a society we need to understand that our morality and comfort are not the norms with which we can readily judge every other culture. Not everything is going to make people happy, not everything is going to be socially acceptable, but that does not mean the people saying these things have no right to say it, and that is an important distinction to draw.
On a happy Saturday night during the summer I sat watching one of the most offensive comics today, Jim Norton. As I sat there listening to him go far beyond the lines of what is acceptable to most people. I laughed, and I laughed a lot. My personal bounds of maturity and morality were pushed to the limits by what he was saying, but it is because it was not part of the social norm that it made me laugh so hard.
Comedians are often a good reflection of where we stand as a society. The things they say are not things you hear every day, violating social norms is good it allows the listener to gauge where their moral lines are. Allowing our comedians and ourselves to say these things are important, but this is only pertaining to comedic material and political rhetoric, not hate speech.
The next time you let the “F” bomb fly, know that you have every right to do so.