Monday, July 25, 2011

MUSINGS ON OUR 'ANYTHING GOES' SOCIETY

When I saw that guy try to throw a cream pie in Rupert Murdoch’s face at the Parliament hearings, I was disgusted. I’m not a Murdoch fan, but if we’re going to get to the bottom of the hacking scandal and any other corporate/journalistic transgressions on the part of his company, pies in faces do not advance the cause. The guy who threw the pie, Jonathan May-Bowles, or “Johnnie Marbles” as he calls himself on Twitter, took an already unseemly situation and simply threw it into the gutter. Why is it that the gutter is so popular?

On the same day that Johnnie Marbles reached out for his 15 minutes, an ABC news reporter, Brian Ross, was allegedly shoved by Michele Bachman’s security detail, when he tried to simply do his job. Ross was reportedly attempting to ask candidate Bachman about her recently revealed migraine headaches. The man tries to do his job, pursue a story that could be relevant to Bachman’s candidacy, and her staff responds by pushing him out of the way. Civility, gentlemen – please.

Am I the only one who misses civility? Public figures are routinely uncivil to one another in politics, entertainment, sports, business and even religion. Their overly-publicized bad behavior seems to set the tone for the common man. Just a couple of weeks ago in Waveland, MS, a Hammond, a LA priest was shot to death with his own pistol, by a guy named Jeremy Wayne Manieri. The killer stole the priest’s money and his Chevy, then picked up his ex-wife and kids and headed to Disney World. He didn’t make it – he got caught, but it is the nature of the crime and the sociopathic personality that would perpetrate it that is so stunning. It is the ultimate act of uncivility. What is it in our culture that breeds people who kill priests so they can go to Disney World? And while we’re at it, why did the priest have a handgun at a retreat facility?

Some might say that some uncivil behavior is harmless. Take the report from this week’s Smoking Gun,” titled “We’re going to need a cleanup in lane three.” It seems a young couple decided to have sex in a public swimming pool, in broad daylight, with many children and their parents present. Even when told by the pool manager to stop, they continued. I love this line in the story: “While it is unclear what drove the couple to allegedly engage in public fornication, the heat wave gripping the country’s mid-section has forced many sweltering Americans to seek a cool, watery respite.” Oh please. You can only imagine the cracks people will make in the Smoking Gun comments section about this one.

But then there are the uncivilized acts that do not invite humor. Consider Walter Bagdasarian (below, right), a California resident who posted an apparent death threat to President Obama in 2008. Here is exactly what he posted: "Shoot the nigger. Country fucked for another 4+ years, what nigger has done ANYTHING right???? Long Term???? Never in history, except sambos." As well as, "Fuck the nigger; he will have a 50 cal in the head soon." Days after Bagdasarian indulged in this online rant, the Secret Service raided his home and found six firearms and a total of 500 rounds of ammunition in each caliber. He was arrested, and freed on $100,000 bail. (That means if he put up 10%, or $10,000, he could just go home). Bagdasarian was convicted in U.S. District Court of making death threats against a presidential candidate. That’s pretty uncivil, wouldn’t you say? He faced up to a decade in prison.

End of story, right? Wrong. This week, the 9th District U.S. Court of Appeals overturned the conviction, stating that while his statements were “repugnant,” they were not criminal. The court also stated that no reasonable person would have taken the threats seriously. Gosh, really? All I can think of right now, is WWGGS? (What would Gabrielle Giffords say?)

The current cultural lack of civility is endemic. For example, as hard as those of us from the 1960s and70s tried to evolve the word “`nigger” out of the language, young black men and the entire hip hop industry refuses to cooperate and perpetuate the use of the word and its negative connotation.
Where once the word “fuck” was actually considered profane, it is now routinely used in all of its many forms – fuck you, fuck me, fucking idiot, motherfucker – well, you know the rest, and I’m as guilty as anybody else. Young men in our society, even after decades of the feminist movement’s efforts, still reduce young women to little more than their genitalia, routinely referring to women as “bitches” and terms I choose not to repeat here. Straight people still denigrate gay people by characterizing them as somehow ‘less than’ and by discriminating against them in law, in employment, in marriage and in so many other ways. Corporate America still somehow sees fit to maintain the good old boys club of white men in power, at the expense of women and minorities.

I have found that after one lives long enough to really observe the culture in the long term, it can be pretty discouraging. It’s not something you can think about all the time, because it would tend to sully your overall view of humanity – or the lack thereof. But it is worth considering that culturally, we are often closer to the gutter than perhaps we should allow ourselves to be. What is the danger in this? Simply that as our societal standards become lower, so do our expectations. If we expect less out of life, out of our fellow citizens, out of our government and educational system and out of our cultural heroes, that is what we will likely get.


Listen, not that it’s the main event here, but does anybody besides me worry that this summer’s most popular tour for the young teen audience is Ke$sha’s “Get Sleazy” tour? Your know, the one where Ke$ha sings these sweet, lilting lyrics to her barely pubescent fans: “Just grab a bottle, some boys & let's take it back to my basement and get sleazy.” And this: “The beat so phat, gonna make me cum, um, um, um.”

Oy. We’ve sunk. So. Low. Gotta run. “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” is on in five.

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