Calm and sense

Speech is by no means free. There is a terrible price for the words we say — coming at unknown costs to our reputations, job security and safety. Caught in the mire of racial, ethnic, cultural, economic and social boundaries, tiptoeing on political correctness and stereotyping, our communication has been diluted by our ever increasing want for sterilized sentences comprised of bare-boned but informational gender-neutral pronouns and adjectives. In 1972, George Carlin gave us seven words you couldn’t say on television. Since then, that list has grown exponentially, for fear of offending someone — anyone. The proof is real. In response to terrorists’ threats, the creators of South Park pulled episodes 200 and 201 after featuring the prophet Muhammad. Kurt Westergaard, the Danish cartoonist who drew a cartoon rendering of Muhammad, and subsequently went into hiding after he survived a home invasion by an axwielding Muslim of Somali origin years later. Juan Williams, formerly of National Public Radio, and Bill O’Reilly of Fox News have recently come under fire for things they have publicly said. In the case of Williams, he was fired from NPR for saying that flying on a plane with devout Muslims made him nervous. What was wrong with what he said wasn’t so much about the content, but the wording. In O’Reilly’s case, he said he was against a Mosque at Ground Zero because we were at war with Muslims. Again, wording over content. What’s wrong with both of these statements is that the national media deems that we are not at war with Muslims, but extremists. However, “extremists” is a loose term, and while we have a cultural connotation of the word, it does not clearly denote what it is we are warring against. Christian or Mormon extremists? Extreme skateboarders? Redhead extremists? Extreme tourists? The problem here is, yes, we are at war with extremists — Muslim extremists. Would it make sense for Williams to be nervous next to an extreme tourist? Probably not. What he defines as a devout Muslim? Maybe. Stereotypes in speech and its retributions hit close to home as well. High school football coach and teacher Larry Dauterive resigned recently after starting a 7-0 season with a team he has coached for eight years because of what he said about his players to their families. Speaking before the Quarterback Club in New Orleans, he said that he and the players were close, like family. He cites that this is because 69 of his players come from single-parent homes, lack a father figure and do not receive the proper care after practices and games at home. All of what he said was true, however it was unspeakable. Under fire from members of the community, and even with support of players, families, and others, the scrutiny was too much for the coach. In 1776, Thomas Paine published “Common Sense,” a radical document advocating American revolution and a prelude to the Declaration of Independence. Compile a group of like-minded individuals, draft a document and publish it today, and they’re sure to lock you up. The price we pay just for speaking our minds as our Founding Fathers intended us to grows everyday. Approached with a little calm and sense, our need for sterilized speech can be absolved by acknowledging that stereotypes are often based on fact, you can’t make everyone happy and the real price is the cost in the mollification of our language.