When I go up to Green Bay to visit my beautiful grandsons there are some words I have to leave behind. Naturally, all words that are classified curse words are gone. Little ears have big mouths that repeat everything adults say. They, also, pay a lot more attention to me when I speak. I slipped a few months ago and said, “Son of a bitch” in front of Alex. Without missing a beat, he said, “Don’t you mean son of a biscuit, Nana?” (I say son of a biscuit quite a bit, I guess.)
There are other words I need to leave behind: Hate – hate is a naughty word according to Danny. You’re not allowed to say hate about anything, even that dumb AT&T commercial. Oops, there goes another one – no, not AT&T – dumb. Dumb is a naughty word so says Alex. Nothing and no one is dumb. Not even those people who are (You know who you are). I must say these impositions on my free speech have made me more aware of what I say and how I say it. Instead of saying I hate that book, I need to say that I dislike it. It softens the tone. Instead of insulting someone with an insult by calling them dumb, I need to say something creative, like “You’re not the sharpest tool in the shed, are you?”
There are some who would say that I have the right to say what I want, when I want to say it and damn all of the consequences. But, I think that all changed just over two weeks ago in Tucson, at least for those of us who think for ourselves. Even though the shooter didn’t see any of the targets or crosshairs produced by both sides of the aisle (supposedly he didn’t, according to friends who had stopped seeing him months ago), the shooting brought attention and set our violent political discourse front and center. A quote from President Obama on the “Chicago Way” about bringing a gun to a knife fight (quoted from the movie The Untouchables) when taken out of context is sinister sounding. Cross hairs over Congresswoman Giffords’ AZ location seems erie and ill-advised.
Some people have taken to swinging the Constitution and the First Amendment around like somehow it is a blanket of protection. “But, I have a right to say that.” “Don’t criticize them, they have a right to say that.” And, my favorite, “I would defend your right to speak.” (No, no you wouldn’t.)
Moving to a nicer tone in our politics, coming together to meet in the middle is not a sign of weakness. It isn’t some bad political correctness gone bad. Neither side is completely wrong and neither side holds the ball when it comes to being right.
We are literally so caught up with listening to the pundits and the talking heads that we have forgotten what makes our country great – compromise, tolerance, acceptance of those who are different. And, I’m guilty myself. I hate dislike Sarah Palin’s politics and the way she turns everything around so that she is a great victim in all of everything, but I will do my best to not say anything that would be un-politically correct about her.
I’m not giving up my freedom of speech, I’m being more responsible with it.
When I was younger and my father was smarter, he once said something to me: “Kid, swearing just shows your ignorance. If you can’t root around your head for a better word, then you’re not smart enough to have the conversation.”
Come join me in a conversation.