When, exactly, did the prudes and morality police take over? When did the self-righteous become judge, jury and executioner for the rest of us?
Ever since Janet Jackson flashed her nipple-ring encrusted boob in the Super Bowl halftime show last February, this nation has slid headfirst into a self-imposed morality morass.
The Federal Communications Commission socked CBS with a half-million bucks in fines over the nipple flash. Congress wants to raise the fines to even higher levels. Television networks go back and censor their shows before someone from the government makes them do it and Howard Stern is bagging the regular broadcast airwaves and jumping to satellite radio so he can say dirty words without getting his balls busted by the feds.
Even NASCAR, the stock car racing sport founded by good old boys and moonshiners, jumped on the politically-correct bandwagon this week by fining its most popular driver – Dale Earnhardt Jr. – for saying “shit” on national TV.
Dale Jr. climbed out of his car after winning the EA Sports 500 Sunday at the always difficult Talladega race track. The win gave him the points lead for the championship with only a few races to go.
When asked how he felt about winning his fifth race at the track, the enthusiastic Earnhardt said “It don’t mean shit right now. Daddy won here 10 times.” This led announcer Dick Weber to immediately issue an apology to “our fans” for the language.
NASCAR fined Earnhardt $10,000 and docked him 25 points, which took him out of the championship lead.
“If anybody was offended by the four-letter word I said,” Earnhardt said later. “I can’t imagine why they would have tuned into the race in the first place.”
Damn straight. True NASCAR fans weren’t offended by Earnhardt’s remarks. Anyone who attends a race at any NASCAR track around the country hears such language, and much worse, just by sitting in the stands. We sat in the stands at the Coca-Cola 600 a few years ago right behind a fan who stuck his middle finger in the air and shouted “fuck you” every time Jeff Gordon came by on the track.
But there was a big difference between hurling a four-letter insult at a driver you can’t stand and uttering “shit” in a post-race interview when the adrenaline is still flowing. Dale Jr. comes from a generation where such language is part of normal conversation.
We can argue all day over whether or not use of such language is proper or improper but the fact remains that most of us use such words every day, not only as insults (as in “you’re full of shit”) but also to express surprise (“Holy shit!”) or even as a compliment (“Well, you got your shit together buddy”).
Words are just that – words. It’s not people saying the words that make them dirty. It’s how people react to them. When Americans are dying in a war overseas and too many Americans can’t achieve an acceptable standard of living or get decent medical care here at home, should we be wasting our time worrying about whether or not an excited young man said “shit” when a reporter stuck a microphone in front of him?
You can bet that most of Earnhardt’s fans didn’t give a shit about his language after he won the race last Sunday.