The Pussification of America, Part III: Priorities
The seven dirty words: shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker and tits. When Carlin first listed the words considered highly inappropriate and unsuitable for broadcast in 1972, he presented a platform for what’s considered taboo on television. These were the words that were supposed to make us jump out of out seats, put our hands over our mouths, and write concerned letters to the television studios. Everything else was fair game, pretty much. I don’t know what the rules are now, especially since there seems to be different standards for the main channels, the middle ground channels like FX and AMC, and subscription based entertainment such as HBO, Showtime, and Cinemax.
But, there’s definitely a general trend toward leniency, and maybe the FCC finally realized a high schooler hearing “tits” on television isn’t going to turn him into a raging misogynist. I don’t know about the words, but there’s certainly more shows highlighting sex and violence now than there were even ten years ago. That’s all fine. We could spend months debating the moral implications of reproducing real life — sex, violence, language included — on popular television shows readily available for children and families. That’s not my focus, however.
FCC showdowns like the one they had with Eminem at the turn of the new millennium are a thing of the past. What’s taken its place though, and the whole war over televised cleavage as a whole, is a new conflict on free speech and prioritizing the issues facing our nation. Free speech in a debate has come to mean free speech as long as it’s all-inclusive and not the least bit controversial. Prioritizing right versus wrong now means more sympathy, more victims and less reliance on personal responsibility. That’s a funny term: personal responsibility. It used to come inherently with American citizenry, but now it’s more of a luxury for those of sufficient means and educational background.
The story of two Ohio teen football stars accused of raping an unconscious teenage girl during a series of alcohol-fueled end of summer parties in the back of a car in August has gripped the nation recently, and is the first of two stories I’ll discuss. The two boys were found guilty yesterday after Judge Thomas Lipps handed down a maximum sentence, potentially keeping Richmond incarcerated in a juvenile rehabilitation facility until the age of 21 and Mays until 24. Those timelines could and very well may be shortened in the future, but one certainty is that under Ohio law, both boys will forever be registered sex offenders.
CNN broke the story yesterday of the judge’s decision, and Candy Crowley began her breaking news report by telling reporter Poppy Harlow that she “cannot imagine” how emotional the sentencing must have been. CNN played the video of Richmond collapsing in tears as the sentencing was read, telling his lawyer that, “my life is over, no one is going to want me now.” CNN legal contributor Paul Callan added how there’s always that moment where “lives are destroyed,” and how the sex offender mark will “haunt them for the rest of their lives.” Crowley spent most of her report lamenting the two boys’ fate, describing them as standout football players and excellent students. Very little time was dedicated to the real victim, the 16-year-old girl who will somehow have to live with what was done to her.
One of the most popular classroom discussions in today’s universities is the American prison system. It’s trendy to think of the penal system as a waste of money and lives, where minorities and the poor are born unfairly into a culture and socio-economic reality that essentially funnels them behind bars. I specifically said “classroom discussion” and not “classroom debate” for a reason; there is no room of opposing opinions in education anymore when it comes to personal responsibility. It’s not the criminal’s fault anymore. The blame rests on the shoulders of the fortunate who put the criminals in their situation.
These two boys got off easy, plain and simple. I would gladly go about the rest of my days knowing they’re rotting behind bars, but instead they’ll be free when many twenty-somethings are just graduating college. Look at this picture. This wasn’t one of those flimsy rape cases where both parties have had ten beers and the girl incoherently mumbles, “yeah, sure, whatever.” This was a passed out girl taken advantage of by two thugs with absolutely no remorse for the permanent emotional damage they caused to her and her family. It’s not a stupid drunk mistake made by a couple of teens. It’s not the judge’s decision that ruined their lives, but rather their own behavior.
Well shit, Robert Huber. I bet you didn’t think your little article in Philadelphia Magazine would be making national headlines a month ago. Maybe you did; you wrote an honest, flawed piece on the issue of race in Philadelphia. In retrospect, an article titled “Being White in Philly” was destined for controversy. That’s not because what you said was untrue, but because race is a taboo subject, just like “tits” was a taboo word forty years ago.
I’d recommend following that link and reading the article in its entirety, but if you’re pressed for time I’ll summarize. Huber went around various neighborhoods within Philadelphia, the fifth largest city in the country, interviewing predominantly white citizens on their “race stories.” Most of these consisted of break-ins, burglaries and muggings. Most of them involved white victims and black offenders in neighborhoods that were at one time safe, but no longer so. The underlying theme of the article was that the neighborhoods are no longer safe because blacks have moved in, and whites have moved out. There’s going to be editorial errors abound and rampant bias whenever an article interviews solely white people, and focuses specifically on race without mentioning economic factors. But is that really such a crime? Is it so bad that a journalist chose to isolate a specific issue — race — without involving the multitude of complicating factors for once?
In 1950, Philadelphia was a predominantly white city still desperately clinging to its aristocratic roots, with a black population of 20%. Today, blacks make up 44% of the city and non-white (the Zimmerman term) Hispanics another 37%. I spent the early years of my life in the Fairmount area of Philadelphia by the river, what is now a “gentrified” area made up of young professionals. I moved out to the suburbs not long after, but still spent every high school afternoon within center city. If you’ve ever met anyone from Philadelphia, then you know we’re all obnoxious and overly proud of our hometown. I love my city, my sports teams, and even have a certain appreciation for the trash and large morbidly obese population.
That doesn’t mean I disagree with a single sentence in Huber’s article. It’s one-sided, sure, but it’s accurate. Perhaps more than any other city in the Northeast, Philadelphia is still divided by strict racial boundaries. You don’t go partying too far above Fish Town, and that’s only if you’re brave enough to leave the comfort of Old City. We haven’t had a New York-esque cleanup of the homeless yet, and students of renowned universities like Temple and Penn absolutely have to watch their backs walking home late at night. When up-and-coming Philly neighborhoods are said to be gentrifying, it means that more white folks are looking for cheaper living and gradually raise the area to a nice, comfortable middle-class region fit for hipsters and young couples. Philadelphia neighborhoods are still divided by where the Irish, Italian and German immigrants set up shop long ago. And yes, they’re also divided by where those immigrants’ families no longer live. Racial division in Philadelphia is very real, as is the topic of race itself.
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter was quick to bash the article as racist, false and in poor taste. He’s since launched an investigative probe to determine just how accurate these racial claims really are, but that’s all bullshit. You don’t need to spend taxpayer money to defend your city’s innocence from such vile accusations. I’ll tell you firsthand; as much as I love my city and its tremendous beer scene, I’ll be the first to concede to the article’s arguments. As someone who’s trying to convince my long-term girlfriend to move down to Philadelphia from New York for the long haul, it’s difficult when her first impressions are a homeless man masturbating in the corner of the train station and getting hassled for money when she’s just buying a fucking pretzel.
I shouldn’t have to only show her the touristy areas of my home city, but safety comes first. It’s an article, Mayor Nutter. It’s free speech, Mayor Nutter. The media circus you’ve created by calling out the writer as racist and out of touch is embarrassing, but mostly uncalled for. It’s okay to disagree, but back it up with evidence that doesn’t include a press conference. Set your priorities in order; this issue was never a secret, just ignored. Don’t blame the article, just fix the problem.
The pussification of America is very real, my friends, and it’s all about priorities.