F@&k This, Middleborough: Throwback Tuesday Edition

I’m back, Faceless…well, sort of.

Some of you might recall that I lost a slew of posts in an unfor­tu­nate back-up inci­dent about two years ago… I’ve learned quite a bit since then… it hap­pens, I guess.

But imag­ine my sur­prise when I stum­bled across a few raw ver­sions of some of those lost entries! Made me hap­pi­er than find­ing a $10 bill in an old suit jack­et, let me tell ya. So I’ve dust­ed them off, giv­en them some edit­ing and updat­ing, and will slip them back into your con­scious­ness over time. Call it Throw-Back Tues­days if you will; but minus the embar­rass­ing pic­ture of you in a cool-at-the-time den­im jack­et and a slight­ly-lop­sided Kid ‘n Play fade. (Wait, per­haps that kind of thing only hap­pens to me. Nev­er­mind.)


-Your Writer  


F@&k This, Middleborough — July, 2012

Greet­ings, Face­less.

There was a news sto­ry float­ing around about the town of Mid­dle­bor­ough, Mass. a cou­ple of weeks ago. There are plans in the works to amend an old by-law to fine cit­i­zens that swear in pub­lic(I assume guests to the town of Mid­dle­bor­ough would be no more exempt from this by-law than they would be from steal­ing a car, or defe­cat­ing in the town’s water foun­tain. Trust me, that last one is NOT on the list of approved activ­i­ties in many a small town. Don’t ask how I know this.)

This by-law has been on their books since 1968; but see­ing how the law as writ­ten made any “…unrea­son­able noise or offen­sive­ly coarse utter­ance, ges­ture or dis­play…”  an offense pun­ish­able by jail time, it wasn’t enforced. But it would seem that a recent rash of Pot­ty-mouthed­ness among their cit­i­zens has prompt­ed them to take mea­sures to tem­per their tongues, opt­ing to fine their pro­fane ass­es $20 and force them to con­sid­er when curs­ing a blind­er in pub­lic may be unac­cept­able.

It seems that we as a soci­ety have been grap­pling with this for as long as there has been a soci­ety to speak of. In the 1700s, George Wash­ing­ton made his troops go to church and for­bade them from swear­ing; near­ly every coun­try has a pro­fan­i­ty law of some sort which bans the glee­ful utter­ance of fuck­mon­key at the Dairy Queen at three in the after­noon on their books, some of which are active­ly enforced. A woman in Hous­ton was fined a few years back for mak­ing an unau­tho­rized F-Bomb deliv­ery at a Wal-Mart; in Vic­to­ria, Aus­tralia, you can be fined $240 — and if the offense is seri­ous enough, you could spend up to two years in prison. Here in Toron­to, it is ille­gal to “…use pro­fane, insult­ing or obscene lan­guage or ges­tures…” on the TTC (iron­i­cal­ly, I’ve rid­den many a street­car on which it was clear that the dri­ver was obliv­i­ous to this fact). 

So. How do we go from a do what you like, say what you like free­dom of speech cher­ish­ing soci­ety to this, you might be think­ing? Our behav­iour as a soci­ety has always been curbed and restrict­ed in some fash­ion,  be it by the church, the state, or oth­er­wise. Grant­ed, many of these actions are often trig­gered by some prud­ish that would be bet­ter off keep­ing their mouth shut; but the con­cept of legal­ly enforced ‘moral­i­ty’ isn’t a new thing. In fact, it might be more nec­es­sary than we think.

We’ve all been raised on a healthy diet of the Gold­en Rules—or depend­ing on your reli­gious lean­ings, the Ten Com­mand­ments (thou shalt not kill, thou shall not steal, thou shalt not shit in the water foun­tain in front of Town Hall)—which have formed the basis of mod­ern civ­i­lized behav­iour. But if I had to guess, there was a point in time that a King with a smok­ing hot Queen looked over at his grow­ing moun­tain of loot and thought:

Well, then. That ass­hole sta­ble boy has made off with two good hors­es — and I’m not too fond of how some of my knights are eye­ing my Lady. How do I keep these unwashed bas­tards out of my sta­bles, my store­hous­es and my wife?

Wait, wait — I’ve got it! PAGE — where’s that damn page…there you are. Go fetch me that cler­gy…  what? What’s a Cler­gy? Right, I haven’t invent­ed one of those yet. We’re going to have to get on that, too. Alright then — go fetch me Frank. What will he do? His job is to be gen­er­al­ly offend­ed by EVERYTHING and to scare the beje­sus of EVERYONE, and I think he’ll do just fine…”

And before you knew it, the promise of damna­tion and eter­nal tor­ment, the occa­sion­al behead­ing and no Star­bucks FOREVER became the penal­ty for bar­bar­ian­ism. The King could gen­er­al­ly rest easy, know­ing his sta­bles would be full and his Queen should remain large­ly unsul­lied.  There were a few oth­er basic rules (there was some­thing about cov­et­ing your neighbor’s fine ass in there, I’m sure of it); but if you adhered to the trio of “1. Don’t steal my shit, 2. Don’t fuck my wife, and 3. Don’t kill me in the com­mis­sion of items One and Two”, you wouldn’t go to hell or lose your head. Sim­ple. People’s behav­iour was in need of some com­mon sense guide­lines, and the rulers of the time insti­tut­ed the ‘fine’ of Hell and behead­ing for non-com­pli­ance.

Some folks have pro­nounced the entire thing uncon­sti­tu­tion­al, hold­ing swear-ins and the like, as you knew would hap­pen. “It’s my right to chant ‘moth­er­fuck­ing­god­damn­shit­face’ at the top of my lungs at the Wal­Mart.” And I don’t dis­agree with that, in prin­ci­pal. As unpleas­ant as it may be for some of us, they should be able to do as they please. They’re not hurt­ing any­one, they’re not wav­ing a bat or bran­dish­ing a gun (there’s some more irony, huh — a coun­try that embraces firearms for every man,  woman and child can’t get past a four let­ter word… That’s food for anoth­er rant)… they are using some words that you and I have the abil­i­ty to tune out. If you don’t like it, don’t lis­ten. I’ve dropped more than a few of those same choice words in this post­ing — quite inten­tion­al­ly, in fact. You’ve always had the choice to stop read­ing—and per­haps some of you have, which would be your right—because  it is my right to say and do as I please. Right?

Let’s play with that con­cept of rights a bit fur­ther, then. You have the right to eat ripe Lim­burg­er cheese and onions in July on the train, turn­ing the stom­achs of every­one around you. Like­wise, one of your co-work­ers has the right to heat up sar­dines in the office microwave, let­ting the stench waft mer­ci­less­ly across your col­lec­tive work­ing spaces. And regard­less of how hard I’ve looked (believe me, I’ve looked), Mr. Beans For Lunch has every right to strain and fart to the point of fill­ing his pants on the crowd­ed com­muter train Mon­day evening, much to the cha­grin of those of us trapped in the fiery blast from his innards. And yet, mirac­u­lous­ly, most of us avoid exer­cis­ing these rights on a reg­u­lar basis, because to do any­thing but would be just plain igno­rant.

Con­trary to what’s quick­ly becom­ing pop­u­lar belief, we do pos­sess the abil­i­ty to con­trol our­selves; we have the abil­i­ty to put lim­its on our own behav­iour, to self-police when it is or is not appro­pri­ate to drop a pro­fan­i­ty bomb. And while fines seem to be a slight­ly heavy-hand­ed (dare say, uncon­sti­tu­tion­al) approach to the sit­u­a­tion, maybe it was the best way the politi­co of Mid­dle­bor­ough could come up with mak­ing their point; and to be clear, I high­ly doubt the sher­iff is thrilled with the prospect of fol­low­ing peo­ple around, wait­ing for a rogue curse word to fly out of their mouths. Even in a town of 20,000, I’m sure he has bet­ter things to do with his time.

Don’t get me wrong: Live and Let Live, I say. If you’ve got your heart set on a course of action and it’s not an ille­gal act, fill your boots. But let’s be clear about what the ass­clowns crowd­ed around Middleborough’s Town Hall, their signs of protest wav­ing proud­ly in the air, are real­ly pissed off about. Your protest isn’t about your con­sti­tu­tion­al­ly-pro­tect­ed right to say shit-turkey in pub­lic; it’s about being asked to exer­cise a lit­tle self-restraint and to show some respect for those around you — and you’re hav­ing a baby­pants tantrum, (not)cleverly masked in a civ­il rights argu­ment. (Here’s a tip: if your behav­iour is so both­er­some, rep­re­hen­si­ble or down­right offen­sive that legal inter­ven­tion is pro­posed to address it, then maybe you should have a lis­ten.)

Those who know me (and any­one that has sol­diered on through the Val­ley of Vul­gar­i­ty I’ve just penned — thanks for hang­ing in there) are well aware of my flu­en­cy in the Pro­fane Arts. One day, a WTF did she just say?! word flew out of one of my lit­tle darling’s mouths in the pres­ence of grand­par­ents, fam­i­ly friends, and the like. Fab­u­lous. I pulled them aside and said “Watch your mouth.” When they replied “I’ve heard you say that before” as I knew they would, I point­ed across the room at their grand­moth­er, who was still try­ing to fig­ure out how hard she’d have to throw her shoe to hit me from where she was sit­ting.

Yes, I have”, I replied. “But how many times have you heard me say that in front of her? Know your audi­ence.”

They thought about that, nod­ded and apol­o­gized, and walked back out to the room. I didn’t get struck with a shoe, and the prob­lem was solved. Per­haps that’s what Mid­dle­bor­ough was real­ly try­ing to accom­plish with all of this; it just want­ed to teach its pot­ty-mouthed lit­tle brat a les­son and the fine was the prover­bial “soap”. Hope­ful­ly, they’ll have as much luck as I did.

But when all’s said and done, good res­i­dents of Mid­dle­bor­ough, if one of the biggest issues you have as a com­mu­ni­ty is Frankie Foul Mouth at the local gro­cery store, life is pret­ty fuck­ing sweet.

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One Comment

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  1. too muck­en fuch.

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