I have a tendency to read between the lines. In fact, I’ve noticed that even when I listen to someone speak, I similarly tend to listen between the lines in an effort to suss oot the underlying psychology behind a person’s stated opinion. Some seemingly uncharacteristic gripes of a few old friends of mine recently brought this into starker focus. Now, what I’m aboot to say may sound hypocritical coming from a purveyor of knowingly offensive online content such as I, but stay with me on this one: the growing wave of self-appointed social justice warriors on a mission to shame anyone and everyone for their choice of words may be annoying, but in the larger context, it is just the type of visceral over-correction that may be needed if the modern collective consciousness is to transform into something more civil and egalitarian than it has been since time immemorial.
The aforementioned gripes of people I’ve known for many years go a little something like this: Initially, I hated Trump just as much as everyone on the left, but now I think he may be right aboot destructive political correctness. I am so tired of people telling me how to speak that I can’t imagine voting for another left-wing asshole who’ll monitor everything I say.
Talk aboot a knee-jerk reaction! Are these friends of mine actually trying to say that they’d rather live in an authoritarian, white supremacist state as long as those at the helm don’t encourage verbal and linguistic micromanagement from their constituents? If so, then they are suckers who have fallen for the very games of intentional divisiveness from Trump and his ilk that they allegedly once despised.
How do I square all of that with my unshakeable defense of free speech? Quite simply, by speaking freely, but with the understanding that if someone takes issue with something I say or write, that person is also exercising their right to free expression. Your typical Fox News pundit would have you believe that “PC culture” is an epidemic threatening the very foundations of the nation and its constitution. However, they do so in defense of those who have all but run that “sacred” document through the fucking shredder, and it is only the threat to their continued dominance in the social, racial and ethnic hierarchy that they fear. The only reason there has been such an uprising of public protest by those who take offense at racist, xenophobic, homophobic and misogynistic speech is because those people have been on the receiving end of the institutional discrimination allowed by hateful and/or cowardly public sentiment for the entire history of the United States. If, like me, you have enjoyed the privilege afforded to those of us who are straight, white, American born males, you must ask yourself how you would react if you found yourself on the wrong end of the cultural stick and subject to the hatred, violence and lack of opportunity that has gone along with the experience of being a minority in this country for so many people who are only just finding their voices and a platform on which to raise them now. That platform, of course, is the internet, the same one utilized by those who peddle in hatred and division, as is their right. To many, the downside to freedom is responsibility, however, an unfortunate but necessary element of free expression is that those who use words to divide and incite are exercising the same rights we use when we call them oot on it. Thus it could be said that some of us use our right to free expression responsibly and others do not. Shy of direct threats of bodily harm, we must allow them this irresponsibility. And it is that very irresponsibility against which we now hear a rising chorus of equal and opposite free speech.
When I referred to the content of my writing as potentially offensive in the opening paragraph, I wasn’t really talking aboot my fondness for vulgarity. Swear words are something over which someone must choose to take offense, especially since there are inoffensive and “acceptable” terms that have the exact same literal meanings as their verboten four-letter synonyms. What I was referencing was my use of terminology that was a-okay in the social climate of the early 90s (the era of the TV show to which this ridiculous blog is dedicated) but has become largely taboo in the intervening decades. Specifically, off the top of my head, I can count at least a half a dozen times that I used the term “retard” or “retarded” as a pejorative so far in my parody-heavy analyses of Fifteen. Why would I use such a word when I know that there are those who cringe at its very existence? Because, whether thoughtlessly or with awareness, I along with many others used it quite liberally back in 1991. The reason you don’t read any racially charged or homophobic language here is because I never really utilized such terminology, even when it was more “socially acceptable” to do so. I don’t court controversy by saying things that are antithetical to my own values. But “the R word”, as I’ve more than once heard it called? Yeah, that one still escapes my lips with the ease of unconscious respiration. Apparently, I’m not alone:
From Rick & Morty
Rick: Your sister’s boyfriend gave me a microscope that would have made me retarded.
Morty: Ooh, oh boy, Rick, I don’t think you’re allowed to say that word, you know?
Rick: Uh, Morty, I’m not disparaging the differently abled. I’m stating the fact that if I had used this microscope, it would have made me mentally retarded.
Morty: Okay, but yeah, I don’t think it’s aboot logic, Rick. I think the word has just become a symbolic issue for powerful groups that feel like they’re doing the right thing.
Rick: Well, that’s retarded.
Regardless of the fact that I obviously side with the fictional Rick Sanchez on this one, would it be wrong of someone to tell me that my use of such language is offensive or hurtful? Of course not! In fact, I’m guessing that the only reason I’ve yet to receive such admonishments is because Notes From The Avalon has a whopping readership of 37 people. Granted, a year or two ago when my blog was more opinionated and diverse in its subject matter, I had a much bigger following, yet I still never caught any shit for my frequent evisceration of people’s religious and political beliefs because I was preaching to the choir. In other words, the only people who tend to follow someone’s personal blog are those who agree with its author on most issues. This is why it seems that no matter what I say, I always seem to get a pass. I’m sure this wouldn’t be the case if I started writing aboot shit that a preponderance of people might actually be interested in reading as opposed to analyzing the crap oot of an awful Nickelodeon children’s program.
My point is, nobody is trying to take your right to free speech away, just like nobody is trying to take your guns away. If weathering the occasional online scolding for how you express yourself is the only price you have to pay for the potential increase in universal civil and human rights, then my advice is to just suck it up. But for Christ’s sake, don’t overhaul your entire worldview into something racially exclusive or even fascistic just because the PC Police hurt your feelings on Twitter. In other words, please choose your battles wisely. Perhaps we can revisit your gripes aboot having to occasionally defend the language you use after we’ve dispatched of the racist authoritarian threatening to tear us apart with his strategically divisive Oval Office megaphone.