Extra indecency, anyone?
I recently read that the Federal Communications Commission is deciding whether to loosen obscenity rules for broadcast television and radio. Turns out I'm the perfect person to comment on this topic, since I was raised in Wyoming.
How does living the first 14 years of my life in the Cowboy State qualify me? Because you can take the boy out of Wyoming, but it's tough to remove Wyoming from the boy.
When it comes to bad language, I can keep up. Not that I'm foul-mouthed, but if the occasion calls for it, I'm your guy.
I hit the road running at age 5, when my friend Tony screamed a singular and specific profanity at every passing car as we walked home from kindergarten. When I got home, I asked Mom what that word meant. After unwrinkling her face, she told me to take it up with Dad.
Mom still loves to tell the story about how Dad dragged out the Encyclopedia Britannica and sat me down in the den to talk through the scientific explanation of the f-word. Mom was in the kitchen, and every once in a while, she would hear me exclaim in astonishment, "REALLY?!"
Thereafter, I earned and have maintained membership in the Colorful-Language Club, deploying my expertise whenever needed.
This brings us to President Barack Obama's FCC and punishment of over-the-airwaves potty mouths. Earlier this year the commission formally asked the American public what its collective thoughts were on fining broadcasters only when the bad language and "non-sexual nudity" is "egregious."
That's different from the FCC during George W. Bush's administration, which saddled up to fine stations and networks for even "fleeting expletives."
Frankly, I'm of two minds on the topic. I loved the irony of the Bush administration issuing fines for celebrities dropping the f-bomb on a live TV network awards show, since the president and vice president were notorious f-word lobbers themselves.
But as fun as it is to see government bureaucrats play Do As I Say, Not As I Do, I find myself slouching toward agreement with the FCC's inclination to loosen the penalty for profanity. I just don't believe TV, movies and morning-radio shock jocks are responsible for children's gutter mouths.
Hell ... er, heck, I learned my first soap-in-the-mouth-worthy words from friends, coaches and other adults -- including toilers of the soil like my grandfather, who explained, "The good Lord says it's OK for farmers to swear, since he makes their lives so difficult."
When I was a kid watching television, characters said a woman with child was "expecting" because the word "pregnant" was too raw. So I can't blame the media. I'm a guy who believes our popular entertainment simply reflects Americans' behavior. It's like the late movie critic Roger Ebert wrote: "If people don't like sex and violence, why is Eddie Murphy a bigger star than Benji?"
What if television and radio continue to coarsen, and people stop watching so many TV shows and listening to offensive morning radio? That may be a good thing, because the alternative might be to read more books.
I forgot to mention that earlier: Reading lots of good books was the other thing I learned to do while growing up in Wyoming.
Email Don Porter at firstname.lastname@example.org.