"The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." This, the 9th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which already has its share of judicial footprints all over it, may soon be amended to add, "excepting those which may cause offense to certain groups."
Those who believe that a right to be free from personal or class offense is already enshrined in our national ethos, now seek to further extend it governmentally. Never mind that some states, and to a certain extent, the federal government have previously adopted hideous 1984-like "hate crime" laws which seek to punish the vile thoughts which supposedly cause such crimes, they now want to punish the hate itself.
As pointed out by our friends at NewsBusters.org, when the Rev. Jesse Jackson was asked about the injudicious use of a familiar and repulsive racial epithet, he announced, "I might add that we're really going to begin to fight to prohibit that word in public usage as hate language."
Not stopping to consider the utter inanity and impracticality of that statement, let us admit its impossibility. No government in history has been able to regulate the emotions of its citizens. Not even God himself has been very successful in regards to legislating the dark workings of the human heart. No, I don't give the good reverend much of a chance either.
His outburst was occasioned, of course, by the Michael Richards flap; wherein an under-employed comedian was unable to quiet hecklers at a "comedy" club without delivering an ugly and out-of-control racial diatribe at his two black oppressors. He was subsequently forgiven his grievous sin after making the necessary sacrifices at the altar of Rev. Jackson who, as some might remember, knows his way around a racial epithet or two.
Oddly, the very word that got Mr. Richards into so much trouble was the same one that got somebody else out of it. Recall that the alleged use of the magic word by LAPD detective Mark Fuhrman was cited by many as a major reason that O.J. Simpson was acquitted of two brutal murders a decade ago.
It seems no small coincidence then that Mr. Simpson -- onetime football star and second-rate actor -- is himself once again in the spotlight for offending the sensibilities of the American people, this time for crimes against good taste. The cancellation of a Fox TV special and recall of his book, deliciously titled, If I Did It, were the result of howls of indignation from the same folks who were once slavishly addicted to the daily goings-on at his trial.
The irony of it all is demonstrated in this from CNN: "One station manager who had said he wasn't airing the special said he was concerned that whether or not Simpson was guilty, he'd still be profiting from murders." If this sort of hypocrisy doesn't offend, I don't know what would. I mean, if the media and the American public aren't interested in the self-recriminatory tales of washed-up celebrities, or the lurid details of murders, rapes and kidnappings, what need have we of TV or Hollywood?
All my life I've heard and continue to hear ethnic jokes, many of them which stereotype Italians as dim-witted greaseballs and murderous thugs. In polite conversation, these jokes are deemed repulsive, yet their personification in The Sopranos and Goodfellas is considered cinematic art, though personally, I prefer the jokes. Similarly, those who trade in bathroom humor and spew profanity for pay are said to be purveyors of the performing arts, proving once again that one man's trash is another man's treasure.
So we will all tut-tut at the insensitivity of Michaels and the crudity of Simpson while reaching for the remote to catch up on the latest episode of Desperate Housewives. Meanwhile, we are left to bear the wails of the perpetually offended like Mr. Jackson who believe they can restore civility and good manners -- toward some, at least -- through legislation. The truth is, the only way to end the offenses against good taste and common decency in America is not through the pen but the purse.
If Americans were truly outraged or offended by crude behavior, bad language, or the glorification of violence to such a level that one cannot watch even a TV commercial without witnessing some sort of mayhem, they wouldn't be satisfied with the apology of one bad comedian or the suppression of one lowlife's attempts at financial redemption. They would speak loudly with their wallets and make a swift end to it all. But don't expect that to happen any time soon; the beast must be fed.
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