In 1939, Rhett Butler shocked the American movie going public with his infamous “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn” line. Then, use of curse words in public was frowned upon, but it didn’t require armies of censors to enforce the purity, instead, folks exercised self-censorship, believing their characters and souls would be better off if vulgarity never crossed their lips. Today we are not so motivated and thus radio audiences can be regaled with all manner of sexual innuendo, descriptions of body functions and yes, frequent, nay, perfunctory use of the word “damn”. But this is just the tip of our foul language iceberg, now it is fashionable to mock those who pray for the souls of aborted babies and adults suffering debilitating illnesses, like Steve Gleason.
Gleason played for the New Orleans Saints has been diagnosed with ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease, and began a courageous fight against the disease that afflicts Steven Hawking. Yesterday, an Atlanta based radio show “Mayhem in the A.M.” chose to lampoon Gleason’s inability to speak without using a computer voice simulator. After their tasteless “parody” aired and a public outcry ensued, the 3 show hosts were suspended then fired.
I wis to draw the distinction between what was not done by the hosts and then to the hosts.
John Adams said “freedom is not the right to do as you please, but the liberty to do as you ought.” What “ought” the Mayhem hosts have done? Well, had they been raised in a culture that valued manners, decency and Christian charity, they might have praised Gleason for his courage and offered to shake cans for ALS research outside a Falcons home game.
After their firing the public reaction is one of relief that such motley characters are no longer on air to ply their vulgar arts. This from the same public that delights in the movie “The Hangover” and made household names out of Paris Hilton & Kim Kardashian. In other words, this culture we live in is only outraged by vulgar behavior when it is guilt tripped into “giving a damn.”