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Word Police

by Peary Perry
Peary Perry
Are we now destined to have to have a national Word Police force?

Last weeks stink over shock jock Don Imus has produced an outrage from sea to shining sea. But my question to everyone is simply this….why all the fuss?

Now, don't get me wrong…I'm not defending what he said because it was out of line and did not need to be said by anyone in the first place. He made comments which he now regrets and has suffered for it by losing his job. If you say things that hurt people or degrade people, then you can expect or should expect bad things to happen to you.

I don't like or appreciate people calling me names or labeling me, and neither do you.

But, do we really need to have a national debate and censorship of certain words which shouldn't be used in the first place? Are we now going to carry this issue to the point where it will become a crime to even utter certain words or phrases at the risk of fines and imprisonment?

Are we to be fearful of mimicking Santa Claus when he says…"Ho, Ho, Ho"? Should the Seven Dwarfs be sanctioned for singing 'Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho…it's off to work we go". Are we banned from ever saying the words…Gung-ho or Tally-ho? When we go to the hardware store and ask for a certain garden tool used for weeding...will we be reduced to just pointing to the object without ever calling it by its real name…? And what will Libby Foods do about the Jolly Green Giant…I suppose he cannot ever say "Ho, Ho, Ho…Green Giant" without being suspected of being a racist.

Surely not.

All of us in this country deserve equal amounts of respect no matter who we are or what position we occupy at any given time. Having said this, I believe it is our responsibility to act accordingly and not use words, phrases or descriptions that are offensive to anyone. I don't believe we need a national police force or set of laws to make certain this happens.

Personally I view the Imus incident as the starting point for something positive in this country that has been way overdue. I would like to see this outrage over this incident to be redirected to other aspects of our society which have demeaned women, advocated violence and drug usage.

I'm not certain if the correct terminology is hip-hop, rap or whatever. All I know is that the lyrics and videos produced for musicians such as 50 Cent, Killer Mike, Young Buck and Young Jeezy do not, in my opinion, promote the kind of values that I would like to describe my daughter, if I had one. I find their terminology to be offensive, insulting and generally disgusting. I do not think this is the correct and proper image or role model for young adults to follow or to try and emulate.

What I cannot understand is why these so called 'artists' have been allowed to portray women in such a negative way for so long. The record producers have defended their positions by telling us that the language expressed in their music and their videos is 'their' language and is 'entertainment' which is to be used by those living in their culture and their culture alone. Does this mean that if I'm not Irish, I should not observe St. Patrick's Day or I should refrain from saying something like "Adios Amigo' since I'm not Hispanic? Am I to only use language that is indigenous to my specific culture?

And what culture would that be?

My grandmother was German, My Grandfather originated from Ireland…. Others came from Scotland and England….so what does that make me?

I'm clueless; I think I'm just a plain old American. Shame on me for becoming this way. I suppose it's my fault. I am the result of the great melting pot that is the United States.

Well, I happen to believe that we should be free to enjoy, celebrate and learn about every nationality that makes up this great country of ours. We should have enough common sense and decency to respect all of our countrymen and women and not portray them as anything with a derogative meaning or connotation. That's just plain wrong, no matter what nationality or race you happen to be.

We don't need any type of national law to enforce this matter; we just need to speak out when we see this taking place. I'm hopeful that we'll see some changes for the better in the days and weeks to come.

It's way overdue.
© Peary Perry
Letters From North America >

April 18, 2007 column
Syndicated weekly in 80 newspapers
Comments go to www.pearyperry.com
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