Friday, September 27, 2013

The F Bomb is a Sad Adjective and Other Free Speech Woes

Okay, so I've missed writing this blog. I've missed the conversational tone and processing some ideas which have really stuck with me. These are blog entries, not college expository essays. I may ramble.

And today, I need to ramble a bit about free speech. Two things have collided in my brain this past week and I need to process. First, there's David Guth, a professor at the Univeristy of Kansas and all the heat he's received for a recent tweet involving the NRA. The tweet-in-question read: "The blood is on the hands of the #NRA. Next time, let it be YOUR sons and daughters. Shame on you. May God damn you." The second... well this post ("Dear Guy Who Just Made My Burrito") at Medium (New to you? Me too.). It's a funny (and truthful) piece in which he uses the F-bomb. Ubiquitously.

I've wrestled with this free speech issue. When I was seventeen (and it was a pretty good year), I wasn't allowed to buy a copy of Faith No More's Angel Dust because of the explicit lyrics decal. Yes, this was way back in 1992. Remember CDs? Anyone? I was still listening to cassette tapes, too. I was fired up. Angry. How dare some over-inflated political ninny tell me to what I can or cannot listen? This I believe: free speech is important to me personally and vital to the health of a free, educated society.

What steps over the free speech line? What is free expression and what is profane/inappropriate/illegal? Who decides where to place the line?

Once upon a time, I had a student with a large "Freedom of Fucking Speech" decal across his school planner. Really? Let me repeat: Free speech is important to me personally and vital to the health of a free, educated society. I'm not sure which part of that statement is synonymous with "carpet F-bomb when/wherever you'd like". So yeah, Mr. Lucky Shirt's post about burritos is funny, but after a certain number of "fucking chance"s and "fucking empires of sour cream" I shut down and stop reading. If I was still teaching, I would have told my students the offense lies in lazy writing, not a personal issue with the f-word. Is "fucking" the best adjective he could muster? It certainly isn't the most accurate (unless he eats his burritos differently than me).

For those of you who like analogies, I liken using "freedom of speech" to cover for poor writing and the need to "fuck" everything (in writing)  to a man who would buy a Mercedes-Benz and enter it in the demolition derby at the Douglas County Fair. Way to use those resources, dude.

But what about David Guth? I still don't know. He teaches at a university--supposedly a bastion for free speech and intellectual discourse. But it is a publicly supported university (getting at least a small chunk of funds from public tax coffers). People (taxpayers and lawmakers) get their feathers ruffled. It seems to be a matter of tone. If he had posted "What if it is your sons and daughters next time?" instead of "Next time, let it be YOUR sons and daughters." I think the effect might be different. But does it matter? In Twitterland, you only have 140 characters per thought.

And that, dear friends, is why I missed blogging. Ramble on.

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1 comment:

Bobbie Metevier said...

Great post Aaron! I'm all for context. I wrote a novel where the characters were all Marines; the language was rough. But I don't understand using any word repeatedly to get a point across. I think most thinking people can put the word out there to describe one instance of this or that, and then choose another strong word for the next section of their diatribe.

Let's face it, a word like fuck can stand in for anything and it's a little too easy . . .