Saturday, November 03, 2007

Sharpton the Bounty Hunter

A recent Supreme Court opinion that put the kibosh on a “racial balancing” plan in the Seattle public school system says: (“The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race”); so, by way of a paraphrase, I now say that the way to protect freedom of speech is to stop punishing free speech.

I don’t care for Dog the Bounty Hunter--in fact, I have a visceral reaction to the sight of him. I’ve never watched his show, and if his ads come on I change the channel, to avoid being insulted by him and the whole premise of his show. If a guy who looked like Dog bought the house next door, we’d move. I don’t like his dirtbag haircut, his convict attitude, his trashy retinue, nor the thought of all the young males--whose self-expression is limited to parking their trucks across two spaces in crowded lots, and having bumper stickers that say “DON’T LIKE MY DRIVING? DIAL 1-800-EAT-SHIT”--undoubtedly considering him an outstanding role model.

That said, the man has a right to talk on the phone to his kid without losing his job. In fact, the man has the right to talk on the phone without having his private conversation published in the National Enquirer. ("Bounty hunter 'Dog' off air indefinitely for slur").

No one seems to know whether or not it was Dog’s own whelp, Tucker, who taped his own conversation with his dad, (which would be legal in most states), or whether or not the call was bugged by a third party, which would be illegal wiretapping.

As a matter of fact, taping Dog and Tucker would qualify as an act of domestic spying, illegal, immoral, outside the rule of law, and about ten other things that Chuck Schumer and Pat Leahy and the overheated civil-rights community have spent eight months repeating ad nauseum endlessly about NSA programs directed at terrorists, not that they're going to bring up now.

Nor will the ACLU go after the National Enquirer over this. Because we all know that what Dog did is much worse than anything any Mafia hitman, al-Qaeda members, or child pornographer ever did, all of whom have had civil libertarians battling for their rights to be heard--or rather, not to be heard.

Oh yes, oh yes, we're to understand, it’s a violation of bin Ladin's constitutional rights if we listen to him on his cave-phone directing suicide bombings. Meanwhile, while Dog may be an American citizen having a private phone conversation, and, incidentally, not breaking any laws--because he used the “N”-word, he has no civil rights anyone has to respect!

And then Dog had to go an make things worse, for himself, and for the all rest of us, by crawling on his belly to Al Sharpton with an apology. Dog, who is, after all, "the Bounty Hunter," may have done this more or less as a professional courtesy, recognizing in Rev. Al a fellow chaser-down and bringer-to-justice of bad men (in exchange for money). And like a bounty hunter, Sharpton enjoys operating outside the limits of the law. Dog just figured if he tried to hide, Sharpton would just bust down his door, crown him with his bullhorn, and drag him off to justice, anyway. And we all know that till Sharpton gets his justice, no one's going to get any peace.

And the thing of it is, Sharpton didn’t even know all of this had happened, when someone showed him this white trash dude publicly requesting America’s Racial Conscience to give him forgiveness. As Marc Freeman at American Thinker writes:

How amazing is that? The Reverend no longer need even demand action in order to find his race-baiting butt right in the thick of it. Unlike Imus, Chapman planned his own lynching party. That's right, Sharpton hadn't even heard the bugged tirade, much less demanded Chapman's head on the block. Pre-emptive self-abasement. (“Dog throws himself to the Sharptons”).

Still, Sharpton is nothing if not the humble servant of the Lord, ever ready to search out that one lost sheep, and responding to Dog's penitential request in this wise:

"As a minister I would be inclined to meet with you despite the racist and grotesque things I heard you say," Sharpton wrote in a letter released to the media. "If you wish to meet with me somewhere on the road that is fine, but be assured that I will not sanitize the kind of hate language that leads to the hate action that has left so many people vulnerable in America today." (“Sharpton Open to Meeting With 'Dog'”)

Well, don't strain yourself, pastor. Talk about your Good Shepherds! And you'd better think twice about telling this preacher your sins, if you don't want him to reply in a letter released to the media.

Nor does anyone, at A&E, Dog’s network, nor anywhere else as far as I can tell, allow that Dog’s remarks being made in a private conversation mitigates anything. Once again Sharpton gets to be the one who explains how we in America certainly will tolerate private free speech--within limits:

“While people have the freedom to express themselves in any matter in private, when those private conversations become public, it becomes our responsibility to state, as we always have, that we condemn the use of this word as racist and derogatory.”

So when the private becomes public, even when it becomes public by the malicious action of a third party, we can let the condemnation begin?

A sentiment which grates, actually, right against the social and legal trends in our country having to do with privacy these last few years, trends to increasingly treat privacy as an absolute--and by definition, absolutes don’t have exceptions.

That’s why sodomy passed beyond criminal sanctions, because the Supreme Court ruled that what one boy sticks up another boy’s rectum in the privacy of his bedroom is a private matter that, even if it were to become public, is off-limits to condemnation. That’s why an abortion at any stage, performed on a female, even a minor, of any age, is beyond public condemnation, or even public regulation.

That’s why law enforcement is regularly sanctioned by courts who exclude evidence obtained without the strictest regard for due process and consideration for the rights of even the most heinous defendants--even where it means setting the clearly guilty free. And of course, the sanctity of privacy and freedom of speech are why the ACLU and other groups can’t sleep nights for thinking that there is a terrorist somewhere overseas chatting about plans to kill Americans--while having his phone conversations tapped by the wicked NSA.

The use of the “N”-word has not become prohibited under federal law--yet, so Dog isn’t facing legal prosecution for what he said to his son on the phone. Instead, he’s only suffering social condemnation, which may be worse, (Dog survived prison, but this?). After all, social condemnation is enough to destroy a reputation and a career, maybe even a life, at least, according to Nathaniel Hawthorne.

But is our nation so far gone that the only act upon which we can achieve consensus is that this--yes, this here, this daring to utter this word, is the only surviving mortal sin?


Anonymous said...

How do We Get Rid of the N-Word?

Did you catch the Sean Hannity interview last night with bounty-hunter, Duane "Dawg" Chapman? I watched part of it, then turned the channel when I couldn't take anymore. Chapman, without going into details, is the latest white celebrity to get caught using racial epithets on tape, specifically the N-word, which he repeatedly used as he spoke on the phone with his son (who dates a black girl). Unbeknownst to the "Dawg", the little "Dawg" was taping the conversation, which he then sold to a tabloid. How nice. Now, Chapman has donned sackcloth and ashes as he does the repentance tour. Apparently, an audience with Al Sharpton is in the works. In the interview with Hannity, Chapman tried to put his own spin on his use of the Magic Word (as many blacks refer to it.) He says that he had assumed that he was so close to the black community, that he had a license to use the word as some sort of bonding mechanism-"brother to brother" (I am paraphrasing.) He also said that as of 3 days ago, he now knows how much hurt the word causes to blacks. Huh?

First of all, let's be clear. One look at Duane Chapman and you know he is no Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. This is a man who has been around the block quite a few times including time in prison for his involement in a homocide. (He didn't actually commit the killing himself.) If you've ever watched his show on TV, you know that the Chapman family makes the Addams family look like the Nelson family. So now, like Michael Richards, Don Imus, the Greaseman and others, Chapman is scurrying around trying to salvage his "career". He even told Hannity last night that he wants to be buried in a common, unmarked grave where slaves were buried.

But let's put the "Dawg" aside and focus on the bigger issue. The N-word. Once again, it rears it's ugly head and is subject of national attention. Why is it still around and how can we as a society get rid of it? Undoubtedly, the word is used much less among whites than it was 40 years ago, when it was commonplace. Today, few whites would use it even among other whites for fear of being rejected as a racist. It is generally reserved for use among whites in select circles who know that everyone in that circle feels the same. Even when I was a small child, I remember my aunt telling me that "only poor white trash" used that word. (My aunt and my mother are from North Carolina and grew up in the segregated South.) As I recall, in those days, white teenage punks, not knowing any better, used the word among each other. The Civil Rights Era and a new awareness changed much of that.

Still, we are periodically reminded that the word is still out there. The main point, as I see it, is how do we get rid of the word, as well as all other ethnic slurs in the English language? A big part of the problem is the free and indiscriminate use of the word among some segments of the African-American community-to the horror of many of their older generation. On the streets of the inner cities, among gang members, the word is used, largely spurred on by hip-hop rappers who sprinkle the word into their lyrics. This raises the question of whether it is acceptable for blacks to use a word that if uttered by a white represents a punch in the nose or the ending of a career. Many would argue yes. Many would argue no. I would side with the latter, and here is why.

First, the use of the word by blacks can only serve to trivialize the word. Some whites ask why there is a taboo on the word when many blacks use it themselves? This undermines society's considerable efforts over decades to remove the word from our use. Make no mistake, the word is alive and well in hip-hop and gang vernacular. In spite of societal disapproval of the word, it perseveres. Chapman and others notwithstanding, whites have largely done their part to discontinue the word while many blacks have not.

Since I have studied linguistics and teach English, let me put on my pinhead cap for a moment. In any language, in any country, there is a universal rule. Language changes over time. It is a largely unavoidable and natural process that man cannot fully control. Think how English has changed over centuries, even over decades. Pay attention to the speech and accents of actors in movies from the 1930s and 1940s. English has changed-dramatically when compared to 800 years ago and subtly over the last 50 years. English is just one example. Spanish has evolved. German and French have evolved. Virtually every language has evolved, and many have actually died. This evolution is due to many factors which I won't get into here. What is especially important is that individual words are constantly being born (computer) while others slowly die out. How do words die out? Through disuse.

That leads me to the point: We have to find a way to make the word and others like it obsolete. As I said before, whites have used societal pressure and disapproval to make the word unacceptable in any polite company. The Chapmans of the world will pay a price when they are caught using this kind of language. But what price do the rappers and gang bangers pay? Very little if any. That has to change. It cannot change by law since we live in a free society with freedom of speech. Somehow, the black community at the grass-roots level (family, church, schools and community) have to bring about a change. In other words, the Bill Cosbys have to win the day in black public opinion-especially among youth.

gary fouse

Anonymous said...

People take the "N" business too seriously: