Although we lament the loss of civility in public discourse and the loss of elegance in spoken and written language, we are no longer surprised by it. A steady movement toward making all things informal may be a contributing factor, but language in nearly all contexts is coarser than it once was and less thoughtful.
Highlighting that, the Boston Globe reported that fans at home and Fenway Park were delighted when, in a ceremony marking the end of what has to have been one of the worst weeks ever in Boston, “Red Sox slugger David Ortiz let an expletive fly.”
“This is our (expletive) city, and nobody is going to dictate our freedom,” he said. “Stay strong.”
Even the Federal Communications Commission was willing to consider the emotions of the moment in reviewing what, on a different day, likely would have been deemed a serious infraction.
Using the social network Twitter, the FCC tweeted: “David Ortiz spoke from the heart at today’s Red Sox game. I stand with Big Papi and the people of Boston.” The comment was signed “Julius,” ostensibly FCC chairman Julius Genachowski.
Well, you would have to be a very bad sport indeed to deny Boston that release or to fail to forgive the defiance in the sentiment. It is that defiance that saved the heart of Boston last week.
On the other hand, we are not inclined to give the same license to three despicable uses of the First Amendment in Arkansas in recent days. Far beyond the inelegant and coarse, these ignorant expressions demonstrate their writers’ lack of the sense the good lord gave a goose.
The most egregious episode, reported in a Tuesday report from the Arkansas News Bureau, was an article in the Benton County Republican Committee newsletter. In it, Chris Nogy, the husband of the newsletter’s editor, stated legislators who supported the “private option” plan to expand Medicaid, deserve “a quick implementation of my 2nd Amendment rights to remove a threat domestic.”
He went on: “The 2nd amendment means nothing unless those in power believe you would have no problem simply walking up and shooting them if they got too far out of line and stopped responding as representatives.”
If that is not an option Nogy suggested alternately, “If we can’t shoot them, we have to at least be firm in our threat to take immediate action against them politically, socially, and civically if they screw up on something this big. Personally, I think a gun is quicker and more merciful, but hey, we can’t.”
Mr. Nogy and his wife maintain that the comments were used solely for their rhetorical value and never meant as real threats. State Police concurred and did not recommend charges in the case.
Republicans at the county and state level have disavowed Mr. Nogy’s comments and labeled them “offensive.”
In another episode of someone’s mouth getting ahead of his or her brain, a person using the Twitter name “seanonymous” tweeted that House Speaker Davy Carter, R-Cabot, “is a very persuasive gun advocate. I’d like to buy a gun and shoot him with it.”
According to State Police spokesman Bill Sadler, investigators do not believe the comment was a serious threat.
And that’s likely true — but if a student in one of our high schools said such a thing, we suspect police would react with rather more vigor.
Finally, there was the contemptible gloating of state Rep. Nate Bell, R-Mena, who mocked the “liberal” citizens of Boston: “I wonder how many Boston liberals spent the night cowering in their homes wishing they had an AR-15 with a high capacity magazine?”
Rep. Bell later apologized for the timing of his comments if not the sentiment, according to an Arkansas News Bureau report in Saturday’s edition.
The Second Amendment guarantees the right to own guns, but it does not require everyone to own a gun.
Likewise, the First Amendment grants the right to free speech. But it does not demand that people voice to every thought that flits through their heads.
Indeed many thoughts, including those that seem especially clever in the heat of the moment, are best left unuttered.
The occasional heart-felt expletive is infinitely preferable to loose talk about guns and who we’d like to see staring down their barrels.
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Judith Hansen is editor of the Times Record in Fort Smith.