America's Busybody

"Do I hear the sound of butting in? It's gotta be little Lisa Simpson, Springfield's answer to a QUESTION NO ONE ASKED!"

– Ned Flanders, losing his cool-a-roodily in
the Simpson's episode, "Hurricane Neddy."

So, yeah, Sarah Palin, America's Busybody. Since when did we need her to throw her two cents in Every. Single. Issue? First off, she decided that the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque," (pronounced: "It's a community center. You know, more like a YMCA, only the 'C' is a 'M'.") to be built on "hallowed ground," (pronounced: "A former Burlington Coat Factory") needed to be "refudiated," (pronounced: "Not a word, you dunderhead.") by peaceful Muslims &/or New Yorkers. Because, you know, as an Alaskan (and one whose husband was a member of a group who wanted Alaska to defect from the Unites States, no less…), this directly affects her.

Now I'm not going to debate about this community center, its placement, or whether it's a good idea or not. Opinions are obviously divided. My company line is that I don't live in New York. It's not my business. Buuuut, I like the Constitution. I like the freedom of being able to gather and worship in the manner I see fit without worry of hassle from the government. And, as a member of a vilified, misunderstood religious group who is always getting hassle for trying to build their weird, secretive buildings in myriad strategic locations, (and one whose history is rife with accusations of complicity in a secret plot by its members to overthrow the government and therefore should be shooed out of the country as quickly as possible, if not shot on sight) I stand by the First Amendment and well, if it's good enough for the neighbors and zoning boards in New York (or their mayor), let them build their community center in a shabby Burlington Coat Factory location a couple of blocks from the former World Trade Center. (By the way, with the way Manhattan is shaped, pretty much anything in the lower tip of the island is a couple of blocks from they World Trade Center. But maybe that's just The Elitist in me speaking.)

But, like I said, opinions differ. Whatever, because well, First Amendment. Which brings me to the latest bruhaha Sarah Barracuda/Quitter McGee decided to weigh in on: radio personality/advice diva/A.M. yenta Dr. Laura Schlesinger's recent flap for using the N-word numerous times (numerous times!) during a conversation with a caller on her show. Now her defense is that she was using it to make a philosophical point AND black comedians say it AND they say it on HBO, but still, the fact stands: she used a racially charged word over and over and over on her radio show. Also, for what it's worth, we're talking about a lady who looks like this, which is to say, pretty dang white:

Personally, I don't mind Dr. Laura. I used to work a construction job with a guy who listened to her semi-religiously and she was fun; doling out sound, common sense advice like a friendly mom who'll tell you how it really is, kid. Sure, she's a busybody, which is probably why Sarah decided she needed to defend her, I guess. It's part of the Busybody Sisterhood Bylaws or something. Look it up.

Anyway, because of the flap, Dr. Laura's gonna retire from her syndicated talk show, telling Larry King that she was looking forward to having her First Amendment rights back by being off the air. We'll get into why this is a stupid statement shortly.

Good old Sarah tweeted her two cents (because let's face it, she has a lot of free time on her hands ever since she quit her job and hired a ghostwriter to writer her books, Facebook page posts and, one assumes, those lists on her hands) thusly:

"Dr.Laura:don't retreat...reload! (Steps aside bc her 1st Amend.rights ceased 2exist thx 2activists trying 2silence"isn't American,not fair")" (link)

And: "Dr.Laura=even more powerful & effective w/out the shackles, so watch out Constitutional obstructionists. And b thankful 4 her voice,America." (link)

So, let's talk about why this is totally dumb. Let's start by refreshing ourselves with the First Amendment that's being bandied about so much here. From the National Archives website, the transcript of the Amendment reads like so:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Got it? Do you see the part where it says, "You can say whatever you want and nobody can say anything about it?" No? Whaaaa-? Surely it must be in there.

There seems to be this idea that the First Amendment means that you can say whatever dumb, insensitive or inaccurate thing you want without others saying, "You know, what you just said was dumb. Or insensitive. Or inaccurate. Or all three." This is not the case. If it were, then that means that Sarah Palin was obstructing the Constitutional rights of Rahm Emmanuel when she got all busybody-ish about a report of him saying that Congressional Democrats' objections to the (at the time) Health Care Bill were "retarded."

(It means "stunted." Again, look it up if you need to. It also has other connotations, namely an epithet towards the developmentally challenged. We can split hairs here and talk about usage and why when Emmanuel used it, he was referring to the Congress member's demands, and not a person, therefore the usage is obviously not intended to connote a mental handicap; whereas when Rush Limbaugh used the word to describe members of Congress themselves, he knew full well that that was what he was referring to, namely that the aforementioned Congress members were developmentally challenged. But we won't get into that. It's also interesting that when Dr. Laura gets in trouble for using the N-word, – repeatedly! – Sarah Palin's right there defending her civil liberties, but if somebody says "retarded," man, you better watch out. She will go all Mama Grizzly on you. But hypocrisy's always looked good on Palin.)

Another example: the former Miss California's sort-of-recent kerfuffle vis a vis: gay marriage versus "opposite marriage." Did she have the right to answer the question according to the dictates of her conscience and limited mental capabilities? Sure. Does that mean that her comments should have been uncontested or at the very least un-made-fun-of? Nope. Sorry. I mean, "opposite marriage"? Seriously? The Constitution doesn't cover against mean words or hurt feelings or reasoned rebuttal.

At least not until I get made President.

Look, if Dr. Laura is exercising her First amendment rights by using the N-word to try and make a philosophical point, well, okay then I guess. But it's A) a stupid thing to do, and B) others are just as protected under the First Amendment by "refudiating" those remarks. That's the cost of democracy. It's also the cost of being an adult. It's called accountability and responsibility. You know, the kind of stuff Dr. Laura's shoveling on a daily basis, but apparently won't eat herself, choosing instead to wallow in victimhood.

The bottom line is this: the First Amendment does not mean what Sarah Palin (and a lot of other people) thinks it means. The Amendment simply states that the government can't put limits on your speech (unless it's public or commercial or obscene or slanderous). It's not a free pass to shoot your mouth off whenever you get a microphone in front of your face with fear of reprisal. Welcome to America.

Also: white people should not be using the N-word. Ever. Never ever. Period. Full stop. Not for comedic purposes, not to make a philosophical point, not for any reason. Just don't do it. Cut it out of your brain if you have to. And if a white person does let it slip for whatever reason, they deserve all the backlash that comes their way.

The First Amendment does not protect you from the consequences of your speech, especially when it's done over public airwaves.

Sorry dudes.


rose said...

Hi Dylan, I agree with a lot of what you said. And then I got to the last line and thought, "Oh, I should say something about that." I used to say the word "retarded" all the time. I mean, it was like my "awesome" (just read Candace's post - great banner by the way! love it) except obviously, I used it for everything not-awesome.
And then a friend of mine had a "retarded" baby. She shared this video with us a while ago and I thought it was great. I can't say it better than this guy. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8zFKFshINuw
Just sayin'...

Dylan said...

Yeah, you're right. I was trying to be clever, tying in the last line with the earlier point on usage. I wasn't trying to be offensive, just too clever to the point of it looping back around and turning into dumb. I should have known better after typing all that out that using a charged word to prove a philosophical point is a bad idea. Consider the sentence removed. The last thing I want to do is offend.

Also, thanks for proving my point by pointing out that my speech was, although unintentional, offensive. Thanks for keeping me honest.

rose said...

No worries. I'd be offended if it was intentional, and I knew it wasn't because I've been reading your stuff for so long. Thanks!

Geek+Nerd said...

Oh Sarah Palin...why so many women, (including some in my own family, unfortunately), view her as some kind of role model/super mama/patriot is beyond me. She's a dumb-dumb with a capital "D."