As many on this blog know, I have long griped about the loss of civility and basic standards of conduct in our society. Whether it is a halftime show or television broadcast or some fan or some athlete acting like a thug, we seem to be quickly abandoning any sense of decorum or decency. When M.I.A. used bad language and flipped the bird during a Superbowl game, many like the New Yorker insisted that she should not apologize and that such standards of decency that are nothing but a remnant of the fifties we haven’t shaken.” I remain unconvinced that our society has now abandoned such standards as historical relics. While I have opposed efforts to criminalize speech, I do believe that as a society we should enforce standards of civility and decency. My concerns were raised this last week again with scurrilous attacks on President Barack Obama and a profane laced Fourth of July celebration in Philadelphia.
First, let me begin by saying that I have never understood why people find Joan Rivers (or her younger version Kathy Griffin) to be funny in the slightest. I actually recoil while watching Rivers like seeing a car crash repeat over and over. However, that lack of talent was matched with a lack of decency last week when she called President Obama “gay” and the First Lady a “tranny.” It is an example of what passed for humor in today’s trash talking culture. I also fail to see why anyone would consider that attack on the First Family to be funny.
Many might say that such insults are just part of the New York culture. However, in Nebraska, families cheered a float in a small-town parade on the Fourth of July that depicted the “Obama Presidential Library” as an outhouse. While the organizers said it was protected political speech, my gripe is with the lack of maturity and respect to create such a float in a Fourth of July parade. I have been a loud critic of President Obama for his attacks on civil liberty and his violation of the Separation of Powers. Yet, I consider it shockingly inappropriate to parade such an insulting display as part of our celebration on the Fourth. He is still the President of the United States and we should be teaching our children some modicum respect even if we disagree with his actions. Moreover, the Fourth is a time when we celebrate our common beliefs and values as a nation. Trashing our President seems fundamentally at odds with the values of that day — values that we should be working hard to instill in our children. When people object to the rapid decline of civility and decency in our society, they need to look at displays like the one in Norfolk, Nebraska and consider the impact on kids. I did not see the display as necessarily racist, but I view it was wildly inappropriate for a Fourth of July parade.
Then there was the profanity laced Fourth of July concert in Philadelphia. While Mayor Michael Nutter said that he did not notice the profanity, many families were shocked by the profanity filled concert that is heavily attended by families and children. Concert broadcaster 6 ABC actually had to entirely cut away from live coverage of Roots frontman Black Thought at the start of the show because of all of the foul language. Then, just as families thought they could relax and take the hands from the ears of the kids, Nicki Minaj appeared in a skimpy outfit and proceeded to repeated as a virtual mantra words like “bitch,” “shit,” and “motherf*****” into every song. Then Ed Sheeran finished with his own f-bomb laced performance.
I just don’t get it. If you cannot sing without profanity, stick to the clubs and concert halls. These performers wanted this gig and were contractually required to keep the performance family friendly. This is after all a public concert for everyone, including families, to celebrate the Fourth of July.
I will admit that I no doubt sound like a prude and an old crank. Perhaps we have come as a society, as advocated by the New Yorker, of treating good manners as a “remnant of the fifties.” However, we are hardly a better society for it.