Saturday, November 24, 2007

Second-Hand Profanity

Recently, my wife and I were having dinner in a restaurant that is near the campus of Salisbury University. It was an early Saturday evening so, not surprisingly, the crowded restaurant had many patrons in their 20’s.

The restaurant was noisy, which was to be expected. What I did not expect was the second-hand profanity made up the ambiance of the restaurant. Several nearby groups of young diners had free-flowing profanity as a major part of their dinner conversation. They were particularly fond of using f-bombs. Not only were these groups co-ed, some of the women were using the f-bombs right along with the guys. These groups didn’t give a second thought to others in the restaurant, including several families with young children.

I really enjoy this restaurant but the second-hand profanity ruined the evening for us. What’s more, since it was several groups using this offensive language, I didn’t go from table to table and ask them to stop—it seems we were in the minority.

I am intentionally using the term “second hand profanity.” Second-hand smoke has been recognized as a real hazard and irritant. Smokers have had to accept the fact that their freedom to smoke doesn’t give them the right to inflict that smoke upon others. I think the same principle applies to second-hand profanity. Someone’s freedom of speech expressed as profanity does not give them the right to inflict it upon bystanders.

As a Christian, I believe that words have great power to either help or harm. Words can inspire or leave scars that last a lifetime. I think profanity is a careless use of offensive words that have no positive effect and in fact have great potential to harm.

According to studies, profanity is becoming much more common and accepted in our culture. The halls of our schools echo with language that would have embarrassed sailors a couple of generations ago. However, being more common doesn’t make it right.

Perhaps restaurants and public facilities need to separate the profane and non-profane. Perhaps there can be a “cursing-free section” in restaurants, theatres, athletic arenas [Ball games are another location where profanity has become not only accepted but expected!], etc. Of course, if we who are offended by profanity are indeed a shrinking minority, we may find ourselves as social outcasts like the forlorn smokers forced outside to grab a smoke.

I would be interested to hear if profanity bothers you and if so how you handle it in public situations. If it doesn’t bother you, I’d be interested in your defense of profanity.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Taxes…The Beatles were right again!
What do the Beatles and Maryland’s current special legislative session have in common?

As a Beatles’ fan for more than 40 years, it never ceased to amaze me how much insight into life these young men from Liverpool showed in some of their songs. Remember how the song “Eleanor Rigby” so eloquently expressed the haunting pain of loneliness?

Well, they knew much about government and taxes as well. Here are the lyrics written by George Harrison in angry response to the abusive taxes in Great Britain all those years ago.
Let me tell you How it will be.
There's one for you,Nineteen for me, '
Cause I'm the taxman.
Yeah, I'm the taxman.
Should five percent Appear too small,
Be thankful I don't Take it all.
'Cause I'm the taxman.
Yeah, I'm the taxman. I
f you drive a car,I'll tax the street.
If you drive to city,I'll tax your seat.
If you get too cold,I'll tax the heat.I
f you take a walk,I'll tax your feet.
'Cause I'm the taxman.
Yeah, I'm the taxman.
Don't ask me what I want it for,
If you don't want to pay some more.
'Cause I'm the taxman.
Yeah, I'm the taxman.
And my advice to Those who die.
Declare the pennies On your eyes.
'Cause I'm the taxman.
Yeah, I'm the taxman,
And you're working for no one but me.
This brings me to the current special session of Maryland’s legislature. This session was called because of the “crisis” of a huge budget deficit of $1.6 billion facing the state next year.
[These things are always portrayed as crises, which demand urgent drastic measures. Were there no accountants around when the legislature passed all these spending bills to warn them they were spending more money than the state would take in?]
Now we are told drastic measures are needed. What is their creative response to this “crisis?” More taxes! Income taxes are going up, sales tax is going up, car titling tax is going up, and cigarette tax is going up. [Here’s my prediction for the not-to-distant future: when people stop smoking in large numbers, another budget crisis will cause the desperate search for new taxes to replace lost income from cigarette tax.]
Harrison perfectly caught the attitude of politicians and taxes: “don’t ask me what I want it for if you don’t want to pay some more…you’re working for no one but me.” Enough is enough.
Even though Maryland is effectively a one-party state, I urge you to take a hard look at the candidates you vote to send to Annapolis. If we send enough political leaders with a heart to serve the people, maybe we can change the attitude of the Taxman.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Is That It?

Could there be a less fulfilling World Series than the one just concluded by Boston and Colorado? There have been Delmarva Shorebirds-Hickory Crawdads series with more excitement. [These are Single A minor league affiliates of the Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburg Pirates respectively.]

Is it the fact that I’m getting older or has baseball--all professional sports for that matter—lost its magic?

I have been a lifelong baseball fan. I remember when people anxiously anticipated the outcome of World Series games. Long before there were sports bars, you could go into many a local business and the World Series would be on the radio by the cash register. People talked about the games in the barber shops, around the water cooler at work, and in the coffee shops.

How different it is today. Quick, without looking it up, who was the winning pitcher of the deciding game of this year’s World Series?

The biggest baseball news of this Fall has been from the team which didn’t make it out of the first round of the playoffs, the New York Yankees. The best player in baseball, Alex Rodriquez, opted out of his contract to play anywhere else but for the Yankees. The manager who won four World Series’ championships, Joe Torre, was effectively shown the door and told to not let it hit him in the butt on the way out.

[By the way, Joe is not the only Yankee manager to which such a thing has happened. Charles Dillon Stengel, known to everyone as “Casey” and “The Old Professor, had an even more successful career and a more ignoble departure as Yankee manager. Casey like Torre managed the Yankees for 12 seasons. During that span they played in 10 World Series and won 7 of them. His clubs included Joe Dimagio, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, and Whitey Ford. Yet after losing the 1960 World Series in 7 games to the Pittsburg Pirates because of the late inning heroics of Bill Mazeraski, Stengel was dismissed being told by management that he was too old to manage.]

Frankly, baseball and all sports have become overexposed. We know the most intimate details about the players which as a result makes them seem smaller somehow. Cal Ripken may be the last baseball hero. We have sports saturation as a result of cable networks like ESPN which have an insatiable appetite for events to hype and fill their 24/7/365 schedules.

By the time the championship is finally decided, we are weary of it all and just anxious for it to be over. As a result, the World Series is anticlimactic. By the time it concludes, we really don’t care. We lifelong baseball fans ask ourselves “Is that it?”