Claude Lewis had a disturbing column in the Philadelphia Inquirer yesterday, in which he told how
A 17-year-old youth walked into an Italian restaurant in Burlington, N.J., to order two large pizzas.
Emblazoned on his white T-shirt was a large yellow smiley face with the tip of a cat’s tail protruding from of the smiley’s mouth. Beneath the design was an explicitly depraved, three-word sentence that would offend almost any woman.
The owner of the pizza shop refused service, and the youth left and came back with his mother to show that she approved of his tee-shirt. The owner ordered them both out, and Mama threatened to go to the cops. Mr. Lewis concluded with these remarks:
In a civilized society, we must express outrage when people are intentionally discourteous. Parents who defend rudeness by their children when teachers demand respect do an injustice to all of society. In the privacy of one’s home, lesser standards may be tolerated, but in public places conduct must be regulated. There is also the unwritten law of cohesion that calls for propriety everywhere we travel. Only when parents abdicate their responsibility do we need specific ordinances to govern disobedience.
The level of public discourse in the USA has gone done the tubes. Frankly, I don’t care how people comport themselves in private, but politeness and courtesy seems to have disappeared from the public spaces. I hear words every day, even at work, in the most casual way, that I didn’t even know were words until I was 15 years old.
And I hear them–all but two–on the little bit of television I watch.
This has nothing to do with freedom of speech. Freedom of speech is not freedom to be rude, though many seem to think it is. I frankly am tired of hearing George Carlin’s seven forbidden words minus two on television and on the street, from 10-year-olds and 70-year-olds.
I think Mr. Lewis’s column deserves a good read. It will be available on-line for about a week.