If you're surfing the web, looking for articles against profanity, you'll discover something unsettling. It appears that many Americans think using profanity is a right built into the Constitution of America as part of the Bill of Rights. Hmmm... Let me check.
Nope... It's not there.
Freedom of speech was not added to our Bill of Rights to excuse profanity, bad manners, libel, or outright lying. Let's look again at Freedom of Speech. It is included as part of the First Amendment to the Constitution, also known as one of the Bill of Rights.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Our forefathers never meant "freedom of speech" to cover something as base as profanity. Their intention was to assure the future of a government "run by the people." A government "run by the people" requires the ability to discuss and vocalize opinions about the government. A government "run by the people" requires a press willing to uncover and report truths so that corruption in the government would be discovered and would not be allowed to continue [a good idea when it works]. A government "by the people" allows people to peaceably assemble and come before the government with grievances with expectations of receiving a fair hearing and outcome.
These rights are important. They are critical in maintaining a free country. But nowhere in the Bill of Rights or the Constitution does it mention that we, as a people, have the right to be offensive and vulgar to others. If that were the case where would the offended's rights come into play? Whose rights supercede the other's? And what about little children, don't they have any rights not to have filth said in their presence?
The Internet is a fascinating place, full of interesting facts and opinions. Many people enjoy visiting bulletins or message boards in hopes of finding new information they are seeking. Sometimes they run across another user expressing himself in the only way they seem to know how - with profanity. For some it doesn't matter at all, for others it is merely an annoyance, but for a growing number - it is offensive. And they are getting tired of having their eyes and ears assaulted.
Most of these offended people are not prudes. They are not naive or innocents. They may or may not be Christian. They do accept that some people swear in the heat of anger, but they will never condone the usage of profanity in everyday language. These are people who choose not to use swear words in their own conversations and would prefer not to see or hear them either. Is that not a fair request?
There are some efforts to correct excessive profanity. If you drive through some states with an offensive bumper sticker, you could be arrested and fined. In the workplace, you could be sued for sexual harassment and at the very least will lose your job. In some states using hand gestures and swear words while driving can now get you a fine for exhibiting symptoms of " Road Rage." It will get you removed from many business establishments, such as restaurants, stores, movie theatres, etc. Profanity spoken by a student in a school [K-12] will result in a detention, suspension or possibly even expulsion. Our world, in numerous ways, is telling us profanity is not acceptable. So where is the problem?
The problem is we are a country of mixed messages. On one hand, we set up laws to fight profanity [as stated previously.] On the other hand, we seem to exploit profanity to attract our [somewhat rebellious] youth. How is profanity exploited? The worst offenders are the motion picture and the music industries.
How many movies have you seen recently that have not included profanity [and I'm not just talking about a word or two]? The movie industry is well aware that big bucks come out of the younger crowd. They believe that an "R" rating will increase the appeal of their movie. [And unfortunately, statistics seem to agree.] In order to achieve an "R" rating, they must include a required number of swear words or a certain degree of violence or sex; or any combination of the variables. The criteria occasionally changes. Case in point: remember back to some movie [10 or 15 years ago] that previously had an "R" rating and chances are very good that it would now carry a "PG" rating.
Truthfully, times have changed - but not for the better. For instance, when many of us were growing up there was an ultimate swear word. You know which one. The one that was saved for an extreme situation. The one word that many of us never used [and still don't] - it was that bad. In the past, it was an indicator of an uneducated or uncouth individual, someone you wouldn't bring home to meet your parents. Now, unfortunately, it has become the norm in many people's conversations. Have you walked the halls of your neighborhood school recently? Or sat in the bleachers at a high school game? Or shopped in an area shopping mall? Or even gone to the public beach? Profanity is there.
Pity the youth of today. They have no ultimate word to use inextreme situations. After all, if they use this word to describe what a good day it is, how can they use they same word when they discover someone has stolen the stereo system from their car?
It is a problem that adults let happen. We should have demanded more responsibility from the movie, television and music industries. We should have demanded good movies without the sex, violence, and swearing. We should have demanded more choices besides children's animations or "R" ratings. It can be done. Just watch a movie that was previously rated "R" when it is shown on TV without the language, sex and violence that gave it the "R" rating. One I can think of recently shown was "Broken Arrow" with John Tavolta and Christian Slater. My kids told me not to see it on video - that the swearing would ruin it for me. So I never rented it ...but when I watched it on TV, it was quite interesting.
Which leads me to a few questions? Do all criminals and prisoners swear? It would appear so in the movies. Do all policemen and law enforcement personnel swear? They do in the movies. Do all college kids use foul language and get drunk? Well, they do on screen. Are all high schoolers lazy, sex-crazed, dope-addicted, alcohol- consuming, foul-mouthed, psychotic, irrespsonsible brats? According to the movie industry. Typecasting? ...you bet. Irresponsible? ...Absolutely!
What about our music industry? Don't they hold any personal responsibility for the lyrics they promote? Apparently not in their eyes. Such garbage as "Kill your mother ...Kill your father" is not promoting sanity in an unstable world where kids are using guns to show the world their frustrations. Commonplace in America? No - not yet, but becoming increasingly a possibility. The music industry sells our children on sex, drugs, and violence. They glorify it. And because of the misinterpretation of "Freedom of Speech" - society will have to pick up the pieces. Irresponsible? ...Absolutely!
Now isn't television is a tad more subtle? Well, it was when many of us grew up. There is nothing subtle about telelvision anymore. If television is a reflection of a realistic society - we are in big trouble. Often when a show is in its first year, it is interesting and humorous. But as time goes on, the show gets increasingly daring and outrageous. Compared to the movie industry, television is expected to tone down the violence, profanity and sex. But on television, sex is dealt with in a different way. Television promotes sex through humor. Sorry, but there is nothing funny about a promiscuous friend or relative. There is nothing funny about not remembering the name of someone you slept with. There is nothing funny about a bet on who can score the most or abstain the longest. Morality is not funny. Irresponsible? ...Absolutely!
As parents and as a society, we have got to get serious about protecting the rights of the offended instead of the offenders. What are we teaching and promoting? Profanity or common decency. You decide and stand strong for your convictions. Don't let your standards be ruled by the movie, television or music industry, where money is their motivator.
America will not be destroyed by an enemy from the outside. If we were ever attacked, our citizens would unite and defend our great country. However, if an enemy should sneak up on us and attack us from within, in subtle ways, at our very ideals, our country will not stand. And saddest of all - it will be our fault.
ComPortOne Editor & CEO
The following emails were received at CPO in response to the above article:
Freedom of speech is what permits ideas to be heard. Even those as dogmatic and ludicrous as yours! There is nothing more offensive to me than your ignorant bable. Profanity is not offensive, it is offensive to you. But that is just because you are a pea brain.
We did not include Chuck's last name or email address so he could maintain his privacy and not get inundated with those who disagree [or agree] with him. My response -- I re-read the article and will stand by it, however, I do welcome feedback. -- CPO Editor
However, if an enemy should sneak up on us and attack us from within in subtle ways, at our very ideals, our country will not stand. And saddest of all - it will be our fault"
I agree almost entirely with the article you have written, but there is a tone to it that I find unnerving to say the least. In your zealous pursuit of decent language, what rights will you sacrifice? As a country we have already come under a subtle "attack". The more we ask for legislation that will protect us from "being offended", the more freedom we will lose. Is morality the issue or is freedom? Even God gives you the freedom to make immoral decisions. He obviously doesn't do that to protect human morality. Why then? Because he desires to have people follow him willingly. Do you choose to live under the law, or under grace?
You mentioned "we have got to get serious about protecting the rights of the offended instead of the offenders. " On this I disagree. Christ offended the pharisees. Was he wrong? As it is, speaking your opinion in a court room could get you thrown in jail, regardless of language or truth, if the judge takes offense. A more serious problem is the opposite, we have been protecting the "feelings" of the offended for far to long.
I understand Josh's concern. Let me clarify my position.
I do believe in and support "the right to choose". Not only is our country founded on those principles but even more significant, God's kingdom is founded on "Free Agency"..
It may seem as though I would support more government restrictions, but I know that is not the answer either. However, I totally support extreme restrictions on smut and pornography [preferably yet, its elimination].
Everything said, it still leaves us with the dilemma -- how do we protect the children? And why should the rights of the crude and uncouth be more valued than the rights of others?
While Christ did offend the pharisees, I don't believe he did so with vulagrity and profanity. He offended them by disagreeing with and challenging their doctrines. [They of course may have considered it profane.]
I support differences in opinion. I just have difficulty in accepting that the only way some people express themselves is through profanity.
-- CPO Editor
"They have no ultimate word to use in extreme situations. After all, if they use this word to describe what a good day it is, how can they use they same word when they discover someone has stolen the stereo system from their car?" Does that mean you favor use of 'that word' in extreme situations, like when the stereo system is stolen from your car? If foul language were used more sparingly but still used, would you regard it as as a right?
Not at all. It was in reference to those who thought that at extreme times
swearing was justifiable. The problem is that when one swears, even in
extreme situations it fades the line - how severe is severe enough? It is
natural for everyone to get angry and disappointed at times. Personally, I
think there are so many other words one can use that there is no need to
swear. Controlling ourselves and finding a healthy outlet is a goal we
should all strive for.
However, in answer to your question... in reality everyone has the right to
express themselves and that probably includes swearing but hopefully they
have the maturity and presence of mind to care enough about themselves and
others not to.
I wrote the article because I thought people misunderstood the intent of the
Bill of Rights and were quoting it for other purposes than it was intended.
Some use it to support everything they want to do and claim it as a form of
free expression. If someone wants to be uncouth they should have the courage
to say it, instead of quoting the Bill of Rights. We dishonor the framers of
the constitution when we use their inspired works to support our sordid
behavior and base desires. -- CPO Editor
Disclaimer: Articles posted on ComPortOne are the views and opinions of the respective authors and may or may not be shared by all ComPortOne staff and writers.
Other Articles written by ComPortOne's Editor, Connie Eccles
ComPortOne Home Page